England's Sword 2.0

Friday, February 28, 2003

Leagal Warning

I got this from Emuse. A lovely little fake 404 warning, which contains this priceless entry:

If you are an Old European Country trying to protect your interests, make sure your options are left wide open as long as possible. Click the Tools menu, and then click on League of Nations. On the Advanced tab, scroll to the Head in the Sand section and check settings for your exports to Iraq.


Mad Cow Madness

Well, it seems like the expected vCJD pandemic will never materialize. In case you haven't been following the story, in the mid-late 80s a lot of British people, like students (like me) ate cheap meat (including brain and spinal cord tissue) from cows that had been fed meal that included other cow remains (like ground up bone). It appears that this feeding method helped transmit BSE or "mad cow disease." Initially, scientists believed that BSE and diseases like it could not pass the species barrier and infect other species, so the humans who had eaten the cheap meat were safe. Then some people started dying horribly of a human spongiform encephalopathy, called Creuzfedlt-Jakob Disease. Doctors decided this was a variant of the already known disease because it had slightly diffferent characteristics, and so it became known as vCJD. The method of transmission of this disease is still unknown.

In the early 90s, scientists decided that they did not have enough evidence to be as sure as they could be that beef was safe. Stephen Dorrell, as Health Secretary, therefore announced this to the nation. The reaction was worse than even the Ministry of Agriculture (MAFF) expected. Public confidence in British beef was shattered, and sales plummeted, despite the fact that feeding methods had changed. In the Department of Transport staff "restaurant," for example, it became impossible to get beef for about 6 months (I continued asking for it, of course). Drastic action was decided on to restore public confidence and a program of mass slaughter began aimed at eliminating BSE from the national herd. This cost the government billions. As a colleague of mine on rail privatization commented, "We privatized electricity to finance tax cuts. We're privatizing Railtrack to pay for a barbecue."

But the economic disaster was not the only negative consequence. Public confidence in Government scientists was shattered too. Once the possibility of transmissable vCJD had been established, the modelers got to work. If anyone who had eaten brain-related tissue in the 80s was at risk of exposure, then potentially millions could have been exposed to a horrible brain-eating disease for which there was (and still is) no cure. This, unsurprisingly, made headlines. The basic line of thinking among the public was, "They told us we were safe, now they say we're all going to die in agony. How could they be so wrong? They're either incompetent or evil." This attitude is at the root of current British luddism about GM foods, among other things.

Yet those apocalyptic models all depended on the incubation period of the disease. The shorter the incubation period, the more people would die. As time dragged on, however, and the exponential upturn in vCJD never materialized, the models got more conservative. Now it looks as if they were just plain wrong.

The disasters for british agriculture and science all depend on that putative link between BSE and vCJD. I think it is time to take seriously other possible explanations. One convincing theory, advanced by Scottish scientist George Venters, is that vCJD doesn't actually exist, being a misdiagnosis of the original Creuzfeldt disease (see Brendan O'Neill's excellent Spiked article on this theory here).

It seems that this is one area where scientists' natural caution has cost the country dear. I happen to think that the BSE crisis contributed as much as the ERM debacle to painting the Conservative party as incompetent, and so it cost the Tories dear as well. Dorrell could do little. A leak that the government was covering up a potentially horrendous health risk could have been even more damaging. But what should have been done was to put the potential risk in its proper context. As long as very few people were dying, this should have been spelled out: "We don't know enough about this disease yet to say that there's a real public health risk. Very few people have died -- more people die from being struck by lightning every year (or something like that). We're keeping an eye on the situation, but it would be silly to panic." Yet that wasn't the message that got out, and I don't think it's the message anyone tried to deliver.

In case anyone accuses me of 20/20 hindsight, I should add that I continued to eat British beef whenever I could get it throughout the panic. I felt at the time that the reaction was hysterical. Unfortunately, no-one in power seems willing to admit that yet.

I never intended this to become a warblog...

But the antiwar forces keep prodding me into it. For instance, last night I watched the BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) annual film awards on BBC America (such an Anglospheric idea, isn't it?). I was a bit disappointed because the BAFTA awards always used to include TV awards too, but now they're just a pale imitation of the Oscars, although I did enjoy Stephen Fry as host. But what incensed me was three separate, increasingly egregious insertions of politics into the occasion.

First Pedro Almodovar, whose early work comes pretty close to pornography, said something largely incomprehensible about an American "chief in commander" or something like that, who had said that a moonless night would be best to attack Saddam. If I understood his argument, Almodovar said that film-making was about light and that therefore the plans to unseat Saddam were evil. One might quibble about the darkness Saddam has brought to Iraq.

Then a Mexican actor presenting an award said that last week many thousands had "voted" against the war and he was still waiting for a response. If shouting in public about something is voting, that's a pretty poor vision of democracy.

Finally, the Academy awarded its fellowship to Saul Zaentz, a producer who introduced the final page of his speech with the laughably paranoid declaration, "This will be the part that gets edited." He went on to display a woeful ignorance of his own country's Constitution by saying that he was one of the majority whose wishes were undemocratically ignored in the Presidential election, stated baldly that America was on its way to becoming a tyranny and finished with an evocation of Martin Luther King's "We shall overcome" that actually had more of the feel of Kruschev's "We will bury you." What annoyed me the most about his paranoid rant was that he knew that, as the recipient of the last and most important award of the evening, he was guaranteed a standing ovation, which he duly got. Given that he was close to calling for the overthrow of the American government, this was a disgustingly cynical ploy.

I wonder how many of the luvvies who nodded in agreement during that speech will visit a liberated Iraq as "UN ambassadors" to be photographed with smiling children.

PP: He'll never win a non-people's choice BAFTA, or an Oscar, but Bruce Willis joins James Woods and, I understand, Gary Oldman as no luvvy.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Another true face revealed by Iraq

It has been one of the demands of the British antiwar movement that the House of Commons vote on the issue of Iraq. Well, an amendment saying the case for war against Iraq has not been proven was defeated 393-199. The emerging Tory-Blairite coalition demonstrated its worth (Blair would have lost if the Tories had voted for the motion) and the reactionary left were roundly defeated. Interestingly, the man some fools are touting as the ideal Tory leader shows how gullible he is once more (this is the man who argued for the disastrous Maastricht treaty despite admitting to never having read it):

But Kenneth Clarke, Treasury chief in the last Conservative government, said peaceful solutions had not been exhausted.

"I cannot rid myself of doubts that the course to war we are now embarked on was actually decided on many months ago, primarily in Washington, and we've seen a fairly remorseless unfolding of events since that time."

A plan that involves endless compromises in the UN in the hope of achieving international unity and saving the UN from its own folly doesn't strike me as the exact definition of "remorseless." There's an expression in the UK that someone is "all mouth and trousers." Now that sounds like a definition of Ken Clarke to me...

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Faith, hope and charity

The church that offers prayers for Saddam is dying, of course. A young church-goer helps explain why in this Telegraph article:

Consider the Sunday morning service. The sermons are mostly irrelevant to young people, uninspiring and lack any reference to current affairs. The liturgy is graceless and unappealing. The Common Worship text is a hopeless mixture of ancient and modern and the modern responses use banal, cliched phrasing. Compare, "Spare thou them, O God, which confess their faults, Restore thou them which are penitent" (Book of Common Prayer, 1662) with, "We are truly sorry and repent of all our sins" (Common Worship). Don't patronise young people by assuming they want simple language: according to the Social Affairs Unit, 75 per cent of 16- to 24-year-olds prefer the traditional Lord's Prayer.

There is little guidance outside the Sunday service for young people who suffer mini-crises midweek, when they have a row with their flatmate, forget a work deadline or run into financial difficulties. Few churches designate someone to empathise with the problems that teenagers and twentysomethings face, and show them how God can provide an answer to some of the miseries.

Interesting that the Baptist church we're currently attending (by accident, really) uses simple, everyday language but really does address everyday issues. The Pastor is currently examining what we can learn from the life of King David -- David was a "bad dad," whose son Absolom set fire to his neighbor's lawn, and so on. He used the rape of Tamar to address the uncomfortable issue of incest and sexual abuse. All of which is exactly the sort of individual issue the CofE should be addessing, rather than the macro issues of the morality of war or, as in the 80s, the scourge of unemployment (see my 1999 Spectator article, Faith Healing, for more on this issue).

Yet the point about language is also true. The Church is, indeed must be a focus for continuity through the generations. You see this in American churches through family attendance, but in transient areas such as the entirety of the UK is becoming, that isn't possible any more. The Church has a unique selling proposition as the provider of that link. But by jettisoning it all, it fails to capitalize on a remarkable opportunity.

So keep the graceful language and the ceremony, but address the issues faced by the congregation. Then you get the best of both worlds. Instead, we have a graceless institution that seems more interested in the welfare of Iraqi dictators than the average congregant. If it can't see that, it deserves to die.

The true face of the Liberal Democrats

As the Telegraph's rather pointed headline puts it, Kennedy won't back our troops:

Mr Kennedy, who braved Labour and Tory jeers in the Commons to criticise Mr Blair's handling of the crisis, was asked on BBC Radio 4's PM programme whether he would publicly support the war if British servicemen ended up fighting in Iraq.

He said it would depend on the circumstances, including the outcome of the weapons inspections and decisions of the UN Security Council. Pressed on whether it was possible that British forces could be involved in fighting and the Liberal Democrats' position might be that they did not support that war, Mr Kennedy said: "It is possible, it is possible."

This is incredible. Are there really enough Guardianista lecturers ready to be won over that they outweigh alienating virtually the whole of the working class, which is traditionally supportive of "our boys" (the last unpopular war in that sense was probably the American Revolution)? As the Telegraph's leader says:

For a party that is touting itself as the new sensible opposition, Mr Kennedy's stance is an illogical - and distasteful - one.

Meanwhile, echoing the distastefulness, the General Synod of the Church of England had prayers for Saddam. I wonder what the downtrodden people of Iraq think of that?

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

The old debate

Slate's Moira Redmond has a light article about the differences she's found moving back to the UK from the US. It's superficial stuff, of course, and Bill Bryson does it much better, but here's her take:

People (on both sides of the ocean) ask me what is better in each place. On the U.S. side I would put the shopping experience, anything made of cotton, and family restaurants. Customer service everywhere is better. Driving, and parking, are much easier. In the U.K. I like the Indian food (the thing Brits miss most), the wonderful ready meals available in every supermarket (never found anything to match them in Seattle), and the cream (sooo much better—you do bad things to it in the USA in the search for a long shelf-life). We do old houses better, but you have much better new houses. The newspapers here are more entertaining and more diverse. (The people may be less diverse: You never meet anyone who doesn't believe in evolution and gun control.) This is going to be unpopular but I love what Americans call the "socialized medicine" here: It's cheaper, better, and fairer.

Interesting that she didn't give the correlative to driving, that getting somewhere -- anywhere, really -- without a car is so much easier in the UK.

Medicine? Hmm. Yes the medicine is cheaper (although take another look at your income tax deductions next time you say that), and may be fairer (although the gap is so much less than Brits think it is), but is it really better? If I were to move back to the UK, one of the medications I take is unavailable through the NHS and, because the private insurance system is vestigory, I'd have to pay full price for it. Basic care is about the same in the UK and US (and may even be slightly better in the UK, according to some people) but long-term preventive care is much worse in the UK, as are most forms of advanced care (an MRI, guv? Wot's one of them when it's at home?).

Anyway, comments on this are welcome as always.

Light posting alert

I have a project to finish by the end of the week, so I expect there will be light blogging from me for the next few days.

Fly Me To The Moon

Mad Mullah Abu Hamza, also known as Captain Hook, doesn't care if he's deported to the moon. Apparently, Koranic scripture specifically refers to the Moon as 'the Kingdom of God', while non-Muslim nations are outside it. A rather strange view of creation, if you ask me. His lawyer is left with the flimsy 'freedom of speech' defence, which tends not to be acceptable for what is obviously an incitement to racial hatred, if not an incitement to murder. Abu Hamza claims he's 'just as stuck as someone who's in a toilet with a minefield outside'. (Link Here). The moon, a portaloo, but not in Britain. Perhaps the French will take him, as they probably share hygenic standards.

Boss Twee

Ken Il Sung attacks the Evening Standard in the Independent today. It's a rather odd choice of newspapers, given that London's very own Boss Tweed is complaining of its lack of journalistic integrity. Livingstone wants more peppy stories about how great a city London is, etc. The man has no idea about newspapers, as with much else. There is much wrong with London, and I think things have regressed since Livingstone took charge. Any idea that the Evening Standard's journalism is the yellow press, while Livingstone is the epitomize of reason and middle-of-the-road opinion is farcical. He's obviously too concerned with adulatory publications and propaganda plastered with his visage, and like many Communists, thinks any dissent must be crushed. It's time to send him to North Korea, a far better place for him. Either that, or see if he'd like to be a human shield.

Monday, February 24, 2003

Tony the Tory

Great minds think alike. And I think like them occasionally. Now Michael Gove gives Tony Blair a passing grade:

Central to any current assessment of Mr Blair has to be the manner in which he is handling the Iraq crisis. But before considering just how impressive his stance is, and how petty his detractors, it’s worth noting that Mr Blair’s entitlement to conservative respect doesn’t rest on his foreign policy alone.

The Prime Minister has been right, and brave, to introduce market pressures into higher education by pushing through university top-up fees in the teeth of opposition from his egalitarian Chancellor. He’s been correct in conceding, to the annoyance of his wife I’m sure, that the European Convention on Human Rights gets in the way of a sane asylum policy. In dealing with the firefighters, and their absurdly selfish strike, he’s been satisfactorily resolute.

There are certainly idiocies aplenty across the range of this Government’s domestic policy, indeed that’s hardly surprising given ministers like Tessa Jowell and John Prescott in the Cabinet. The problem with putting muppets into office is that there’s no one left to pull the strings when your hands are full.

While we’re on the subject of pulling strings, the Government will also struggle to improve public services while it continues to rely on centralised funding, management and provision. But even here, Mr Blair and some of his smarter ministers, such as Alan Milburn, the Health Secretary, seem to be acknowledging the limitations of their tax, spend, command and control strategy.

It is not, however, on the domestic agenda that Mr Blair is facing his biggest challenge at the moment. It is over Iraq that he is in greatest difficulty politically. All because, as a Labour Prime Minister, he’s behaving like a true Thatcherite.

That's a pretty fair assessment. The ECHR comment is pretty important in all this. Blair's biggest failing has always been his willingness to jump on any PC bandwagon around. Just entertaining the possibility that the ECHR might be more bother than it's worth is an interesting sign of evolving thought. This is all more evidence for my contention that there may yet be a Blairite-Tory coalition.

And the Telegraph agrees...

The Telegraph says basically the same things as I have about the Tories. I liked this bit in particular:

Imagine how the main evening news might look in a month's time. There would be footage of our men in action; jubilant scenes, perhaps, as John Simpson liberates Kirkuk; then, with crashing bathos, we would cut to Andrew Marr outside Conservative Central Office, telling us that Boodle is now supporting Coodle, because he has heard from Doodle that Foodle plans to give his job to Hoodle. Voters would conclude - and who could blame them? - that the Tories had given up any interest in running the country.

The Telegraph concludes that IDS' weakness is a catch-22. They're right. At the moment, I can only see hope for this ending in a deus ex machina. There may be one in the shape of a Labour split. Now wouldn't that be ironic?

Good news, but...

Well I suppose it's good news. A self-styled Muslim sheikh has been found guilty of soliciting murder. I imagine he'll be sentenced to three weeks thinking about what he did. But here's what stopped me dead:

The ground-breaking trial was the first prosecution of a Muslim cleric in Britain. It was also the first time potential jurors were banned from sitting on the jury because of their religion.

The judge agreed to a defence plea not to allow Jewish and Hindu jurors - but in the end none came forward.

I'm all for rules designed to ensure a fair trial, but this strikes me as, well, institutional racism. There should be a huge uproar over this.

Tory idiocy

The idiocy continues from two of the three factions in the Parliamentary Conservative Party. Michael Portillo used the occasion of the best Tory poll showings in years (with the exception of one anomaly) to criticize IDS's leadership. ID, of course, replied with a gaffe and the attempted launch of a new tax policy at a time when it is the Iraqi crisis that is dominating British politics. Now IDS's ally Bernard Jenkin gives us another illustration of the lack of judgement in that camp:

"I do think there is a cancer in the Conservative Party, which is an inability to allow the party to be led.

"I do think it is insanity to the point of madness to contemplate a fully blown leadership election when the country is possibly on the point of military action so that the leadership election would be taking place while our soldiers were risking their lives. I think that is obscene."

He's right on the Tory reluctance to accept leadership. This is the direct result of the Thatcher defenestration, which gave the Tory generals a taste for coups d'etats. New blood is needed to dilute the power of these generals, if you'll allow me to mix my metaphors, but of course this won't happen until the party is back level with Labour at an election.

Yet then he blows it all by going completely over the top. The tautology of "insanity to the point of madness" and the hyperbole of calling a potential leadership challenge from the modernizers "obscene" when it is, in reality, just silly, are indicative of the lack of sense and perspective in the party at the moment.

I fear that most of the current pickle the Tories are in is caused by a lack of talent in the Parliamentary party and in the quality of the advice they receive. So I'm not sure if a leadership change to David Davis -- my preferred candidate -- would be of much help.

Yet despite this pessimism, I'd imagine the Tories will perform pretty well in the local elections now fast approaching. These are often, sadly, a referendum on the performance of the national government, yet not necessarily a sign of approval for the quality of the national opposition (the election of militant Labour councils in the 80s despite the unpopularity of Labour nationally being a case in point). Really, all IDS has to do is keep his head down and he should demonstrate that being quiet can produce results.

Perfidious Old Europe

In yet more fun, Old Europe sounds off on the Bush tax cut. Don't most of them have enough problems dealing with the ill-named 'Growth and Stability' pact? As helpful as it would be for America to chime in on the failures of the Schroder budget (where does one start?), I think we respect national sovereignty enough not to chime in (in public) on their business. The presence of Secretary Snow consulting Gordon Brown on these issues does show an Anglospheric link behind all this.

Sign of the Apocalypse?

Sasha Castel and Andrew Ian Dodge of Sashacastel.com were married yesterday. Much speculation looms about the Second Coming. Congratulations to the lucky couple! I'm so dismayed about the puerile behaviour of elements within the Tory Party (on both sides) that I'm not going to bother blogging about it for a while.

Saturday, February 22, 2003

UPI Column Up

The latest Recent Research Suggests ... is up at the UPI site.

Friday, February 21, 2003

Wonders will never cease

Apologies for the late postings today. I had a final job interview today (job offered, and now I have to consider whether or not to take it) and them ,by a bizarre happenstance, I had lunch with, among others, Joe Bob Briggs. Count this as a dream come true. He's a great hero of mine and I was, to say the least, gob-smacked by the introduction. Count me a very happy man today.

Here we go again

The ancient world seems to be popular today. Junius (it seems appropriate to refer to him by his pseudonym in this case) sums up a few interesting discussions about Aristotle's economics and De Ste Croix's, erm, interesting class struggle theories about the ancient world. On all of this, I think Clare College Cambridge's Paul Cartledge sums it up best:

[In Greece and late Republican Rome] there is no doubting the high degree of self-conscious solidarity between the two great antagonistic groups of the 'rich' and the 'poor' (otherwise known as the 'few' and the 'many,' and a host of other binary terms). Since the root of their antagonism lay in differential ownershop of the means of production, and the aim of their struggle was very often the control of the organs of government, this looks very much like class struggle -- except that the classes are defined not purely by economic but by a mixture of economic and legal criteria, and the solidarity of 'the poor' was less organic and more soluble than that of 'the rich.'

Indeed. Attempting to define ancient political conflicts by reference to modern economic criteria is as fruitless as the earlier attempt to decribe, say, the optimates and populares of Republican Rome as political parties. They share important similarities, but there are also crucial differences in the way the ancients thought and operated. De Ste Croix did a great job in his investigation of the origins of the Peloponnesian (read Archidamian...) War, but for me he threw it away in his ludicrous attempt to paste modern theories on the ancient world.

Take it away, Kieran...

Being Contrarian

"Truth loving Persians do not dwell upon
The trivial skirmish fought near Marathon"

I've never been particularly impressed by Victor Davis Hanson's grasp of ancient history. He takes a very, how shall we say, Athenian view of things. If he's going to view the Thucydidean Peloponnesian War as one long conflict, he really should either extend it up to the 450s and the First Peloponnesian War (a very important event for the young democracy) and otherwise account for the Athenian-Spartan alliance in the middle of the "War," which is a real problem for the Thucydidean theory. Simon Hornblower says of the overarching Peloponnesian War theory, "Most of it ... was recorded by the great historian Thucydides and that is the most interesting thing about it" (Oxford Classical Dictionary). There seems to me, and to most Oxford classical historians, to be distinct differences between the phases of the "struggle" that make attempts to characterize it as one conflict a trifle over-amibitious. One might as well dispute the difference between World War I and World War II, because both, after all, were part of a German struggle to dominate the European Continent and to break the power of Great Britain. Well, yes, but that doesn't make it the same war.

Thus the Graves quote that begins this post is important. You need to examine both sides to take a proper stance on the overall view of a series of conflicts. Herodotus may have viewed the Persian Wars (note plural) as an ongoing conflict, but the Persians probably didn't. The Marathon expedition was probably punishment aimed at one city only, inspired by a former tyrant of Athens who thought he could win the people back to his side. The idea that Xerxes launched his invasion of Greece in vengeance for Athenian defiance is advanced by Greeks only, and is certainly exaggerated. No Persian document mentions the expedition, and Cassius Dio's evidence suggest that the defeats were unimportant to the Mede. Indeed, modern historical theory seems to suggest that the Marathon expedition was merely an unimportant offshoot of a strategy aimed at securing the eastern Aegean to thereby secure the Ionian coast. If you're going to take a "Thucydidean" holistic view of the Persian conflicts, then you should probably view the Peloponnesian Wars as a by-product of the Persian attempt to secure hegemony, because in the end it was really Persian intervention that doomed Athens, not Spartan supremacy or Athenian weakness or hubris. If you view the Persian Wars as over-arching, then they only ended when Alexander torched Persepolis. But this would be mythologizing. In fact, the wars were a series of distinct conflicts caused by differing motives between two rival groups of powers over time.

I'm not therefore convinced by Hanson's argument here. He's possibly right in his assertion, but the evidence he advances does not back him up in my opinion.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

The American Way

Kris is a great fan of Norman Rockwell. We both thought this picture was valuable in the current debate.

No further comment is needed, I hope.

Time for Palmerstonian action?

"As the Roman, in days of old, held himself free from indignity, when he could say Civis Romanus sum; so also a British subject, in whatever land he may be, shall feel confident that the watchful eye and the strong arm of England, will protect him against injustice and wrong" (Lord Palmerston, "Don Pacifico Debate," June 25, 1850)

A British citizen has been shot dead in Saudi Arabia. It is a little early to ascribe this definitively to anti-British feeling, but I wouldn't be surprised if that turned out to be the case. If that is so, perhaps Palmerston's dictum should be borne in mind in future.

Iraqis voting with their Dinars

If Iraqis are scared of what is about to come, they're not giving us much evidence of it. In fact, there's a property boom in Iraq. The obvious explanation is that they know good times are just around the corner:

Few people dare to say what the market will do after the war. The prospect of regime change is a risky topic. But watch what Iraqis are doing; their optimism is unmistakable. The Baghdad stock exchange is soaring, and private construction plans are pushing ahead. Sarmad Majeed, 36, whose family runs a coffee shop overhanging the Tigris in Baghdad, says he’s investing 180 million dinars in a 14,000-square-foot shopping arcade. Two months ago he paid 60 million to buy land-use rights for the project. “Six months from now it will be worth 70 million,” he predicts. An older employee, Naama Isa, recalls when the shop was so quiet that water buffalo liked to hang out in the shade beneath it. Asked why the market is surging now, both men pause a bit too long and then speak a bit too quickly. “The area is a desirable one,” says Isa. In the same breath, Majeed answers: “We love our country.”

Doesn't sound like a people defiant of evil Western capitalism and willing to die to defend their way of life to me. Instead, it sounds like the desire to make Baghdad the marketplace of the world again is pretty strong.

World War IV

The first three world wars -- the Seven Years War and its consequent global actions really count as the first, I think -- were primarily about European struggles played out on a global stage. Now, despite the weakness of the mainland European powers, a new form of cold war within Europe is being played out on the stage of the UN. At least, that seems to be the real conclusion to draw from this Wall Street Journal article (subscription required) from Rupert Darwell of Reform. As he says,

Mr. Blair rejects the old rules of the European game, which say that Europe must be led by the Franco-German duumvirate. The letter written by the eight European leaders published here last month is a direct challenge to French authority. If the views of the signatories of that letter were to prevail, it would mean the end of France's hegemonic role in Europe. It is a battle President Chirac has to win. And his main obstacle is Tony Blair.

The action of France and Germany in undermining the credibility of the threat of force, the one thing that President Chirac has admitted would make Saddam disarm peacefully, makes sense when viewed from the perspective of the internal power politics of the European Union. Thus the U.N. Security Council has become a theater onto which has been projected, to borrow the title of a celebrated history book, the struggle for the mastery of Europe.

The longer this goes on, the more it weakens Tony Blair and other leaders such as Jose Maria Aznar and Silvio Berlusconi. In the absence of a decision to go to war, that stalling would go on indefinitely.

Foreign-policy realists analyzing French policy tend to conclude that Paris will inevitably buckle down and support a further U.N. resolution authorizing force. This is a less sure thing than it appears.

True, France will make its decision on what it believes are in its interests. In this case it will be on the basis of the trade-off between the damage done to the U.N., where France has a veto at the Security Council, and being the leading state in Europe. What's troubling about that equation from the British perspective is that, nowadays, the wider world stage is less important to France than dominance of the EU. Because Mr. Blair's ability to ride the opposition within his own party to war would be enormously helped by a fresh resolution, France has an incentive to deny one to Mr. Blair.

This is important. France is willing to sacrifice the UN to retain dominance in the EU. I wonder how much applause that would get around the globe (quite a bit from West Coast Isolationists, I suspect).

I happen to disagree with much of the rest of Mr Darwell's thesis about the weakness of Tony Blair domestically. I suspect Tony Blair's position within his own party is much stronger than he concedes. Blunkett, Milburn, Clarke, Straw and others provide him with powerful backing. Brown has a bunch of loonies or has-beens on his side. I'll back Blair any day in this fight.

The last straw

That's it. IDS must go!!!

(To bemused readers, I am a Sunderland fan. This is like someone going to Green Bay and praising the Chicago Bears).

Insidious editing

This BBC story, about the reactions of British soldiers in Germany to the Trotskyist-organized peace protests, is actually quite a reasonable account of their views. But its online editing is disgusting, extracting the words "inhumane" and "relic" out of context to serve as paragraph headers. One is left with the impression that the editor despises British soldiers. How like the BBC to do it this way.

Fast food addiction?

The whole "fast food is addictive as heroin" fiasco represents a microcosm of what's wrong with science today. It's my latest TCS piece.

The Precautionary Principle and War

The Grille has an interesting set of comments based on the latest British poll figures referred to below. Steve believes there's an inherent contradiction in the figures. He's right. What it shows is, to my mind, that a thin layer of precautionary thinking covers the Brit's traditional common sense. Despite what the more sensible antiwar people suggest, that pre-emptive war and its utilitarian justification is consequentialist, and in a field such as war where uncertainty is so great any estimate of consequences must be pure guesswork, it seems obvious to me that this absolutist case against pre-emptive war is itself consequentialist in a precautionary fashion. It assumes the worst will happen and that therefore no pre-emptive war can be justified unless it can be proven beyond doubt that negative consequences will be limited. I've argued many times against the precautionary principle in science and now it appears to be being applied to war.

It's not surprising that the British people are sympathetic to the precautionary principle in science, given the experiences with salmonella and BSE in the 80s/90s, which needlessly shook public confidence in scientists' ability to predict consequences. Yet I can't see why they are so precautionary when it comes to warfare, given that the last war in which Anglo-American forces were involved that got out of control was Vietnam (or am I wrong?). There is obviously a natural reticence to go to war prevalent in any modern democracy, but this seems to me to go further. It is almost certainly a consequence of politicians, on bith sides, repeatedly lying to the public over the last decade or more. When Cabinet members say that military action will have very few negative consequences, they are simply not believed, despite the positive evidence of Afghanistan.

The need for a return to honesty in politics and an end to spin has never been greater.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Set a deadline, for Goodness' sake

Yet more evidence that British opposition to war in Iraq is weak from the Telegraph's YouGov poll (regular readers will know I have reservations about YouGov's polling methods, but as the limitations seem to bias the answers to political questions to the left, they do not really affect this point). Fully 60 percent of respondents are in favour of setting a deadline for disarmament, after which military force will be justified. It is surely time to take up that option.

Meanwhile, Blair could be doing more to convince the public that inspections are not the panacaea people think they are. This first-hand testimony by the former director of Saddam's nuclear weapons program should be used whenever possible. We should also remind people that very few of the personnel involved in the Manhattan Project knew what they were part of. Inspections have a strictly limited utility when it comes to disarmament. Practically, there are only two options: voluntary disarmament or disarmament by force. The international community has to recognize this fact, and come to a decision. Otherwise Tony Blair's fear of an Abyssinia Moment will come to pass. Personally, I'm not altogether convinced that would be a bad thing.

A Right-wing Libertarian Speaks

Yet another excellent analysis by Harry Steele, this time postulating schism within the Left and the emergence of a sensible leftist voice that will abjure the idiocies of those who argue against liberal democracy. I am not well-enough placed to be able to assess whether Harry's optimism is well-founded as regards the UK, but I sincerely hope he is right. As Simon Schama has said, Britain as a nation is passionately committed to both individual liberty (in the traditional sense) and social justice (again...), and each of those virtues needs a champion that recognizes the need for the other, and I don't think either has one at present. A decent Left is a boon to society, just as is a decent Right. In any event, I wonder if the current realignment of politics might lead to a "centrist" Blairite Labour party, shorn of the hate-mongers and SWP fellow-travelers that make up too large a proportion of the current Labour party might fill that role. The Lib Dems would then presumably become the party of the foolish Left, and wither on the electoral vine as this became clearer to the people.

Brussels Behind Closed Doors

Roger Helmer MEP has issued his latest e-mail bulletin about the latest from Britain's putative masters in Brussels. It's chock full of interesting stuff, such as his opinion on the draft EU constitution:

The so-called "Convention" of 105 parliamentarians from 25 countries, under the Chairmanship of ex-French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, has delivered itself of its draft for the first sixteen articles of the proposed EU Constitution -- expect dozens more articles in due course. It threatens a decisive shift of power from national governments to the EU super-state, covering vital areas such as economic policy, tax, justice and home affairs, foreign policy and defence. Without being alarmist, it represents the end of Britain as an independent nation.

Much attention in Brussels is focussed on the nuts and bolts, and we Conservative MEPs are working hard to propose amendments which might mitigate the damage. But given the overwhelming preponderance of federalists on the Convention, we can be sure that the final text will be anathema to Conservatives -- and indeed to all who care about their country. So the more interesting political question is what we do about the final draft when it's available.

The Labour government has said that the current text is unacceptable, but my prediction is that they will come back in a few months with some cosmetic amendments, they will declare a victory, and seek to ratify the Constitution.

The government has already said that it won't have a referendum on this huge constitutional monstrosity -- although here they may find even the Brussels federalists taking issue. It seems that the EU institutions broadly favour an EU-wide referendum, though this would require Germany to change its own constitution first.

If we get a referendum in the UK, then our approach is straightforward -- to campaign for a NO vote. If not, then my own view is that we should turn the 2004 euro-elections into a national referendum on the Constitution. The timing looks set to be ideal. But we are fighting for nothing less than British independence, democracy and self-determination.

I hadn't heard that about an EU-wide referendum. The desire of the federasts to make European nations less powerful than American states could not be better expressed.

Roger goes on to touch on European anti-Americanism, interestingly in the context of Robert Mugabe, which perhaps demonstrates the anti-Anglospherism of the French President rather neatly:

As I write (Feb 19th), President Robert Mugabe of Southern Rhodesia (or as they now style it, Zimbabwe) will arrive in Paris at the invitation of the French government. Mugabe is as evil a man, in his own way, as Saddam Hussein, though fortunately less well armed. He is a wicked despot. We hear much of the dreadful wickedness he has inflicted on white farmers, but he has done far more harm, at least in terms of numbers, to his indigenous black population, beating, starving and killing his opponents.

France has invited Mugabe despite the protests of Britain and other EU countries. For the first time in my life I feel a twinge of sympathy for the otherwise odious Peter Tatchell, who has gone to Paris intending to undertake a citizen's arrest.

The undercurrent of anti-American feeling in France has also broken out again, threatening our vital transatlantic relationship, and creating a split between "Old" and "New" Europe which even the BBC has noticed and is quoting with relish. And President Chirac's harsh criticisms of those accession states who have expressed support for the USA has been widely attacked in the media across Europe. According to the BBC, his remarks are creating a tide of euro-scepticism in the accession states, which is interesting as they will soon be holding referenda on joining the EU.

It seems that Chirac has yet to learn that to be President of France in the twenty-first century is not quite the same as being Charlemagne or Napoleon.

Next, a useful tidbit about the German economy:

Figures announced this month show that German unemployment increased by a massive 10% to 4.6 million in January -- that's around 11% of the workforce. There are a number of reasons for this, including the state of the world economy and the appallingly restrictive employment laws which successive German governments have failed to address. But there is no doubt that the euro's one-size-fits-all interest rate is too high for the German economy -- and locked into the single currency, there is absolutely nothing they can do about it. And the recent appreciation of the euro to (as I write) $1.08, while welcome to the euro-luvvies, is a damaging blow for German exports.

And then, a useful illustration of how damaging Brussels-style regulation is for civil society:

Charity shops are a familiar scene on our high-streets and a vital fund-raising mechanism for good causes. Yet they are constantly at risk from EU legislation. A couple of years ago it was the Product Safety Directive, which would have required full traceability for all goods sold -- effectively an impossibility for voluntarily donated goods. Now, there's a threat of VAT on charity shops.

At a reception in Brussels organised by my London colleague Theresa Villiers MEP, I met Lekha Klouda, Executive Secretary of the UK Association of Charity Shops, and she came up with a brilliant quote that deserves wider circulation: "Charities are scared of Brussels legislation. They're afraid they'll be killed by accident".

I am of course very aware of the concerns of other traders about competition on the high-street from charity shops with low rates and free labour. Ms. Klouda assured me that the proportion of new goods sold in charity shops was small and not increasing.

But the most interesting item in the newsletter is a brief quote from a senior British diplomat, which reveals exactly how the FCO has sold British democracy down the river:

Sir John Kerr, a senior British civil servant working in Brussels on the "Constitutional Convention", to Jens-Peter Bonde, a Danish MEP who sits on the Convention (private telephone conversation): "It would set a very bad precedent if members of the Convention were able to table proposals".

(The Convention has systematically ignored submissions from sceptics -- and the so-called "Praesidium" of the Convention has consistently ignored the views of the Convention as a whole!).

Obviously, these chaps learnt nothing from a small gathering in Philadelphia a couple of hundred years ago.

Congestion Charging

Well, Ken Il Sung's congestion charge has started, and not much seems to have changed. But then again, I'm not a driver, and given how crowded the tubes are (there's a 15 minute queue to get to platforms at my local station, London Bridge, during rush hour), I tend to walk more often. This is a solution in search of a problem. What slows London commuting are roadworks over a year late, lack of logistical planning on the tube (it often seems that Tube trains run more frequently off-peak), and the general location of most jobs in Central London. An easy alternative to this charge would be to offer businesses tax incentives to relocate away from Central London, following the Enterprise Zone plans of Geoffrey Howe. The rapid growth of the Docklands in the past few years shows how useful these things can be. Increased bus service is rather farcical, given that traffic works continue. Why increase the shortfall when there's already a problem?

A new leader?

No, I'm not referring to the rumours of a challenge to IDS. I've found out that reader Iain Dale is on the candidates list for the Tories. Best of luck to him in finding a constituency (hopefully near London, so he can keep his very addictive bookshop in the best of form!)

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Blogs and other blogs

The Beeb has picked up on the Google/Blogger buy-out. I don't normally comment on blogging matters per se, but this story caught my eye because of this statement:

As American technology writer Dan Gilmor, who first reported the Google/Blogger story, has realised and publicly stated many times: with the advent of weblogging, the readers know more than the journalists. And the journalists had better remember that.

I may be reading too much into it, but this seems to me to be a reference to news commentary weblogs, yet the story itself is about the wider weblog community. Perhaps I misconstrue, but when the general public hears the word 'journalist,' they think of a news reporter, not a tech reporter or a gardening columnist or even a sports reporter. Yet the rest of the story failed to capitalize on this important point. Just an observation, which may be flawed.

That seals it

Jimmy Carter has leant his support to the Mirror's Not In Our Name campaign. The archetypal Yesterday's Man has spoken. I wonder what Jim Callaghan thinks?

Jacobin tendencies

The left in Britain is defining deviancy down, up and sideways in its efforts to paint everyone from Jack Straw on as right-wing extremists. If you think this is hyperbole, take a look at Matthew Tempest's Guardian column today, which characterizes Harry Steele's comfortably left position as "rightwing libertarian" (nice redesign, by the way, Harry). I fully expect to see Chris Bertram described as an imperialist running-dog in the next few weeks.

Seriously, this is no way to practice politics.

A Gallic Harrumph

Meanwhile, Jacques Chirac has taken out his frustration at his increasing isolation on the EU candidate countries. The tidy little club of The 6 is seeing its grandiose plans for a Europe based on their traditions falling apart as first Italy and to a lesser extent the Netherlands go in a different direction and then the new countries all express views that differ radically from the vision (allies rather than rivals of the US? What can they be thinking?). I'm not sure I agree with the Rees-Mogg thesis. Old Europe is dieing. Chirac is an old monarch staring at the face of impending revolution, hamstrung by the knowledge that his heir, Schroder, is not up to the job. If the Giscardite constitution doesn't get adopted soon, I'm beginning to think the EU may have a chance at transforming itself into something useful again (not, I should hasten to add, that I think it would necessarily be something Britain should remain involved with).


It looks like Old Europe is in the course of caving-in, and Iraq should beware now. The full text of the EU Iraq declaration is stronger than I imagined it could be. This bit in particular smacks of British draftsmanship:

Baghdad should have no illusions: it must disarm and co-operate immediately and fully. Iraq has a final opportunity to resolve the crisis peacefully.

The Iraqi regime alone will be responsible for the consequences if it continues to flout the will of the international community and does not take this last chance.

So it's now the official EU position that Iraq has little time left to avoid war. I wonder whether this will get through to the British public.


I'm quite opposed to the candidacy of Stephen Norris for Mayor of London. He's a fifth column within his own party, quite willing to deprecate views offered by his party, but unwilling to offer his own. Unfortunately, his opponent for the Tory nomination is named 'Roger', which seems a more appropriate sobriquet for Mr Norris. The distaste I have for Mr Norris is quite extreme. While some argue that London needs a 'liberal' mayor, a left-wing Tory candidate, Norris is utterly inappropriate. I don't see many views from his camp, and as to the question of his 'inclusivity', isn't he the same candidate who ran for the Nasty Party last time around?

However, I'm not sure if he wouldn't be better than Ken Il Livingstone.


Time to return to my natural role as polemicist, or trouble-starter. The European Arrest warrant has received license to outlaw 'xenophobia and racism' and extradite practitioners within the EU. Having browsed the web a good deal on this, the precise definition of 'xenophobia' escapes me. The EU has a definition in the first article, but historically, it was thrown in with racism without ever having been defined. As a quasi-libertarian, I don't believe that racist beliefs are a crime. Practicing them, however, is. No one is forcing the objects of Nazi oppression to read white supremacist websites or chatrooms, but the moment neo-Nazis attack those who aren't 'pure', call for violence against them, or in any way obstruct their rights, that's when the line is crossed. It's not my right to prevent my feelings from being hurt from the words of those who may not wish me well, but it is my right to prevent damage to my fundamental rights. Besides, in the EU proposal, where is the specific line to be crossed? Is opposing immigration, or requiring English classes/citizenship tests racist? If this is implemented, expect a post from an American of German/Austrian/French (Alsatian) extraction insulting the axis of weasels, just to annoy the Commission.


Following the recent sacking of CCO chief Mark McGregor, who, in his past life as head of the Federation of Conservative Students (FCS), could only be described as 'extremist' (and has now turned to manage Shagger Norris' campaign for mayor), the Telegraph states that ineffectual chair Theresa May may be sacked in a reshuffle! To our readers at CCO, someone's seen the light. Say what one might about May's agenda, she failed to differentiate the Tories from Labour, and was utterly useless as Stephen Byers' shadow beforehand. A thoughtful 'moderniser' would be able to differentiate an 'inclusive' Tory agenda from that of Labour. Either way, inclusivity is a busted flush. Many ethnic minorities share interests with the Conservatives (e.g small business owners, to shared cultural values), and would gladly contribute to the party if their opinion was solicited in that regard, as opposed to an approach of 'we need a non-white face in this picture'. It's patronising asking around for a few minorities, when there are plenty who will help if approached correctly. The best way to be more inclusive is to reach out to more people. If the Tories pick up seats at the general election, there is far less need to worry about who's on what shortlist, as several candidates will come through with a swing to the Tories. In a successful party, there's easily room for everyone to have a share of power. In a self-questioning party, no one seems to want to exercise power responsibly. The Great Lady never had this problem, as in espousing her views, she gained converts, many of whom belonged to ethnic minorities. Something to be said for conviction politicians.

I don't know Barry Legg, the former MP (quite Eurosceptic), and new head of CCO, but McGregor failed, as executive of CCO. My friends (and readers) at the Policy Unit assure me that good policy has been produced, but for some reason, is not trumpeted in the media. CCO isn't returning phone calls from interested parties at the grass-roots level, and is failing to leverage institutional knowledge (not that of current employees, but that of former Tory strategists/analysts/fundraisers who still love the party). The Telegraph has turned on the Tories. In my previous posts, I argued that IDS had to shake things up at CCO, or go himself. Given the recent changes, I'm willing to give him a bit more time. Still, he has a vast task. He's ignored parliamentary supporters who helped launch his campaign, and there's still a wealth of talent in the party waiting to help bring it to government. The clock is ticking, Mr Legg.

Europe and Iraq

No surprise today with Dear Leader's announcement that he hopes to get another UN resolution before war. Other Anglosphere leaders want one as well, and if it's stopped by the axis of weasels, they can claim they've tried. Chirac's complaint at the divergence of 'European' opinion proves a thesis Lord Rees-Mogg has, that two Europes may soon emerge, a dirigiste Franco-German axis, and a more flexible EU periphery. The latter would be a beneficial development within the politics of European unity, realizing that a flexible 'union' allows nations to express their differences, yet still pursue a consensus opinion. After all, Chirac's comment smacks of imperialism, with the belief that future EU nations shouldn't express their national opinion, as the Franco-German axis is automatically correct. If this democratic deficit is exacerbated, the authoritarian parties (Freedom Party of Austria, Vlaams Blok of Belgium, Le Pen) will rise further, as there will be no acceptable outlet for perfectly innocuous nationalist interest.

On the New York Post cover, I'm surprised the Europeans are whining about this. After all, Der Speigel has attempted to insult the US with its cover showing the 'War Cabinet' as comic superheroes, something which most Americans found 'cool', as opposed to offensive. Tabloids of all colours in Europe tend to cater to populist opinion in extreme terms, so once it's turned on Europe, it's a diplomatic incident? What about the Mirror's covers claiming Bush is a war criminal? The EU needs to grow a sense of humour, and appreciate that tabloids tend to reflect proletarian domestic opinion, as opposed to that of an elite class of diplomats. They can dish it out, but they sure as hell can't take it.

Monday, February 17, 2003

Shallow feelings and Idiocy

The Channel 4 poll on Iraq has its full details up here in Excel format. It makes for very interesting reading. As C4 points out, all that is needed for a majority of Brits to start supporting the war is majority support on the Security Council. A 'capricious veto' won't stop them changing their minds. It is clear that the relentless peace-camp propaganda that Britain and America are isolated is dominating Britons' thoughts. A Ministerial broadcast with quotes from Spain, Italy, Australia, Kuwait, Oman and Eastern Europe should be contemplated, I would suggest. In other words, Britain's supposed hostility to conflict is shallow.

Moreover, it is quite clear from a cross-examination of the numbers that the Liberal Democrats are now officially the Idiotarian Party of the UK, being more likely to believe the lies about oil, the idea that Bush is a bigger threat to world peace than Saddam (41% to 18%!!!) and that Blair is Bush's poodle. They regard Saddam trying to develop nuclear weapons as the least worrying of a range of scenarios, the worst of which in their eyes is destabilizing the middle east. 1 in 4 of them believes the US has fabricated evidence against Saddam. Over half of them believe the US poses a threat to world peace and over half believe that Saddam has only become an outlaw through his defiance of the UN. They worry about the deaths of Iraqi civilians more than the death of British troops, and more would blame George Bush for deaths than Saddam.

There is plenty of scope here for CCO to paint the Lib Dems as the new party of the Left. I'd imagine Tony Blair wouldn't be unhappy with that tactic being employed either...

PP: More poll analysis, which i think bears out the first part of this thesis, from Sylvain Galineau here.


Lot of good stuff over at Stephen Pollard's blog. He is particualrly ashamed at the Trot-led "peace" march on Saturday and at a piece in the Evening Standard by once-respectable writer AN Wilson that quoted a holocaust denier approvingly. The divide between the sensible and the idiotarian looks stark viewed through his lens.

So that's where the anthrax went...

Interesting little story buried in the AP news -- Swedes Say Iraq Made Anthrax Query:

"We had a query from Iraq in October about how to decontaminate anthrax and how to best protect yourself against anthrax," foreign ministry spokesman Jan Janonius told the Associated Press.

Apparently the Finns had a similar query from the Iraqi embassy there. There must be more to this than meets the eye...

Reality intrudes

One of my favorite PJ O'Rourke stories is included in Republican Party Reptile. I can't remember the title, but it is essentially an essay on what America would be like if it really was the "violent society" everyone claims it to be (he hurls a frag grenade at a dog that jumps up at him and so on). Now Jim Bennett has applied the same idea to describe what a real American empire would be like:

The federal system would have to go, of course. Empires do not tolerate multiple, independent power centers. Multiple attacks of a severe nature would probably create an ongoing depression and emergency economy. It would be easy for our newly elevated commander in chief to burden the states with enough unfunded mandates to drive them into bankruptcy. In response to this crisis, a plan for a fusion of federal and state authorities, and debts, might be something state legislators would end up reluctantly approving. A new constitution would be adopted by national plebiscite, with the integrity of the vote being guaranteed by the military.

Of course the new constitution would have local assemblies of some sort, probably based on existing federal administrative regions. Both the regional assemblies and new national Congress would probably be elected by pure proportional representation, so as to assure fragmentation into many small ethnic-based parties, easy to manipulate and assemble into coalition governments.

And so on. As I've said before, America has imperium, but it's not an Empire.

Saturday, February 15, 2003

A free market -- isn't that what made London great in the first place?

Mrs Tilton of The 6th International asks free-market liberals what they think of Ken Livingstone's congestion charge. I'd urge anyone with an opinion to give it to her. I must say I've never been particularly convinced of the wisdom of congestion charges, which strike me as environmental taxes rather than an attempt to allow people to buy better services if they need them. I'm all in favor of charging for better access -- I've never understood why there isn't a toll on the Limehouse Link and I think that High Occupancy Toll schemes do have a lot going for them -- but that's not what congestion charges are about. That's why I think they're attractive to economic paternalists like Livingstone and off-putting to libertarians. To my mind, congestion in old city centers like London is best dealt with by serious upgrades of the transport system, and the way they should be paid for is not by general taxes but by contributory schemes from businesses that will benefit, like the one the Corporation of London and London First suggested some years back. CrossRail, for instance, needs to be built, but really innovative methods of financing the enormous capital cost need to be explored, and without HMG sticking its nose in. Political risk will kill such projects. Anyway, that's a bit of a diversion, but I do think that the congestion charge is a crude method that probably won't reduce congestion and will affect a lot of less well-off people badly. And I don't trust Livingstone to use the money wisely either.

Iraq and ruin

Harry Steele gives us what is quite simply the best exposition of the case for war I have seen from the Left. Read the whole thing, including the excerpts from the Indy's Johann Hari and, yes, Tony Blair's speech in Glasgow today.

Mr Dale's New Diary

Iain Dale has started up his new-look weblog. Full of juicy tidbits about the inside story of politics in the UK, this will be a major stop for me every day...

Friday, February 14, 2003

Intelligence and Propaganda

A friend of mine raises some interesting points in relation to the current state of Anglo-American intelligence. He speaks from a position of authority, as you'll see. I had advanced the argument that America is not falling victim to propaganda and that there is a genuine debate on Iraq, just one going the opposite way from the way it is in Europe. He replied:

Actually, what I would say is that America is being misled by woeful, and even deliberately woeful, intelligence analysis, driven by a political agenda. Intelligence should drive policy, but nowadays policy is driving intelligence, and it is those at the top of the administration who are making this so.

For evidence, I would advise you to look at a recent article in the
New Yorker.

As a former intelligence officer, I found this extremely scary. It is now official doctrine to ignore facts, and base policy on hypothesis and speculation. Take for example Rumsfeld's statement that he found CIA analysts unwilling to look beyond the facts. Take the example of the DIA rewriting the int analysis regarding links between Iraq and al-Qaeda. They admit that they assumed that there were such links and then wrote a report trying to prove it. We call that 'situating the appreciation'. It is the cardinal sin of intelligence analysis. And yet it is now what you are meant to do! Likewise, the idea of basing judgments on what you don't know, rather than what you do know is extremely dubious. One of my colleagues tells me that US Int officers are now promoting something called 'anticpatory intelligence'. This doesn't merely involve predicting (something int officers should be doing), but involves making judgments not on what you know but on what you anticipate knowing!! It's madness.

Also, things are being presented as intelligence proven facts, when they are just comment and hypothesis. Take Powell's presentation to the UN. He should, for instance, a photo of truck outside an ammo dump, and then another picture of some UN vehicles approaching the same dump later. The truck was marked 'decontamination vehicle' (something one could not tell from the photo), and the second picture had the dumps labelled as 'sanitized'. Powell presented this as proof that the Iraqis had removed chemical weapons from the dump to hide it from inspectors. This is deceitful. You can hypothesise that that is what happened. But you should not present that as fact. The only fact is that on such a such a date and time a truck was present outside that ammo dump. That is the 'fact'. Anything else is a comment based on that fact. As intelligence officers we are taught to distinguish very clearly between the two. All comments must be highlighted as such. Nothing which is not pure data must be passed off as being such. But that is what is happening. To me it is an abuse of the intelligence profession.

So, actually I do think that there is a deliberate effort to mislead.

I do not know enough about the current state of the intelligence profession in the US, but I know a lot of my readers do. Both my correspondent and I would be grateful for insight. Feel free to use either the comments box or by e-mail if confidentiality is an issue. All e-mails will be treated as private and shared only with my correspondent unless otherwise marked.

Wonders will never cease

I never in my life thought I would ever hear a speech by Jack Straw and agree with every word. After Blix's report, which clearly demonstrated non-cooperation by the Iraqis and presented pretty damning evidence on their rocket program, I was amused to hear Syria say that this is all Israel's fault before listening to Villepin's elegant but inconsequential attempt to present France as the voice of reason. Straw and Powell laid out the real issues: that Resolution 1441 was not about inspections, but disarmament, that Iraq's failure to co-operate hurts them, if they are as innocent as people claim, and that this whole process has dragged on for 12 years after an initial UN demand that Iraq disarm in 90 days.

Now the diplomatic games will begin again. I imagine there will be one last compromise, with Iraq given another month to cooperate fully. I don't imagine for one second that will happen, and the French position will be very weak then. That's when the crunch time will come for the UN. Russia will switch sides. China will sit back. France will then have the option of destroying the UN with its veto, or saying that Iraq has disappointed it and reluctantly agree to the use of force, having had its agents in Iraq destroy all compromising papers in the meantime. Blair's job will be saved and Iraq will be liberated. The UN and NATO will go on. All very disappointing for some, but that's my guess at how things will unfold now.

Abusing data

Interesting illustration of the problems with data in this BBC poll about domestic abuse, which suggested "one in four adults in Britain has experienced domestic violence." This figure might be surprising:

More than a quarter of the women who were questioned - 27% - said they had been physically abused. The corresponding figure for men was 21%.

Domestic violence is almost always portrayed as a male-on-female crime, so this figure is surely surprising. Yet it shouldn't be. Virtually all survey data tells us that domestic abuse is perpetrated by males and females on a roughly equal basis. The difference, however, is in serious domestic abuse. What used to be called "wife-battering" is almost wholly a male-on-female crime, although about 15% of the time it's the other way round, which is not an insignificant number. But if you define domestic abuse this way, you find far smaller figures than 25% of the population suffering it.

The trouble is that the surveys that find large numbers of victims, including male victims, tend to define physical violence very loosely, including pushes, shoves, grabs and other physical contact that do not normally lead to injury. Some even define shouting, stomping off, slamming doors and hurling objects (not at the partner) as domestic violence. I don't think this poll was quite that bad, but it does seem inflated.

The consequence is that we get confused. We see the words "domestic violence" and we think "wife-battering." We are then distressed at how horrible our society has become, that a quarter of women have been battered. This is almost certainly not the case.

It is also interesting that the survey examined all sorts of relationships, including the very short-term. It would be interesting to see a breakdown of the results by type of relationship. It might be interesting to see if less conventional relationships are more prone to domestic violence of any sort. Certainly this is the case with child abuse. It would not surprise me to see a strong correlation between non-traditional arrangements and domestic violence.


I'm never surebwhy Brits have a reputation for putting up with things. We seem to moan at any opportunity, especially if we have a chance to say someone else should compensate us. After a live grenade was found at Gatwick airport yesterday, passengers have declared themselves annoyed by the airport shutdown. This quote annoyed me:

"There are no hotels left around here now for less than £150. This was the cheapest we could find.

"We have no travel insurance so this is coming out of our own pocket. I feel sorry for any young travellers who have got cheap flights to save money, and may find themselves tonight having to book into expensive hotels."

Well, that's why you take out travel insurance in the first place, you silly woman! The lady quoted was 58, so this isn't a generational issue. It seems to be generally accepted in the UK now that if you are inconvenienced, someone should compensate you. This spells serious trouble for the insurance industry, I would suggest.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

The intel worked?

I was having an enjoyable e-mail conversation with Chris Bertram when he sent me this: Man held in Gatwick grenade alert.

Praise Marx and pass the ammunition...

Good article by The Independent Institute's Pierre Lemieux at TCS entitled Guns and Economics. That's exactly what it's about, pointing out the economic inefficiencies of violent crime and how gun control inflicts higher costs on the law-abiding gun user than on the criminal. Anyway, it ends with a useful quote I hadn't come across before:

George Orwell cleverly wrote: "That rifle hanging on the wall of the working-class flat or laborer's cottage is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there."

Evidence presented by Joyce Lee Malcolm and others suggests that gun control was introduced in the UK partly to disarm the working class out of fear of an armed communist revolution. I'd love to know what the Comrades think about that...

Holy orders

Thanks to Stephen Pollard for alerting me to this one. A Church of England Bishop has backed the use of force to disarm Saddam, even in the absence of a new UN resolution:

While several dioceses issued plans for prayers and peace vigils, Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester and a contender last year to be Archbishop of Canterbury, told a church newspaper that military intervention in Iraq could be justified.

In an article for the Church of England Newspaper, the bishop, Pakistani-born and from an originally Muslim family, said states could act if the United Nations failed to do so.

Bishop Nazir-Ali, regarded in church circles as an expert on Islam, wrote: "It would be desirable, surely, to seek a UN mandate ... but if the security council produces irrefutable evidence of a material breach of its own resolutions but fails to act, national governments may judge that such a breach constituted a threat to their security and that of the region. They could then be justified in taking action.

"Pre-emptive action could be justified ... if such a state was forbidden by international sanction from possessing such weapons, if it had a past record and present involvement in the use of such weapons ... and if there was reliable intelligence that it intended to use [them] against us and our allies.

"While we pray for peace, we need to recognise that the Iraqi regime may have to be disarmed by force."

The fact that this comes from a Pakistani of muslim descent makes it all the more interesting. First leftist pundits, now CofE bishops. Goodness me, what is the world coming to?

The Fifth Column

The threatened deportation of a Suffolk grandmother shows the complete idiocy of the immigration service. Apparently, a woman who's raised a family of Brits, and twice married Brits (note: Captain Hook, aka Sheik Abu Hamza, is a Brit due to marrying one), is a danger to civil society over here. How civil servants cannot accept that she had been in the UK for 14 years is ludicrous. Furthermore, the process used by HM Immigration is nothing short of draconian, as the article discusses, given that one "immigrant" only was able to inform his family after he was deported to his country of origin. One wonders whether HM Immigration allowed him access to legal counsel.

After Sashagate/Dodgegate, it's apparent that immigration services has crept from its true mission. Amidst all the talk about asylum seekers, there are those such as this grandmother who are not legally British citizens, but are de facto Brits. It seems as if they are treated with extreme suspicion and callousness, despite having a history of integrated into British society without any problems. These individuals have held jobs, contribute to the local economy and society, and in no way threaten British interests.While it is true that most of them have not complied with the exact letter of the law (registering for UK citizenship), they have not threatened the law, and unlike asylum seekers at Heathrow, have a history of accomplishments in Britain to point to as a means of judging whether they are bonafide in their desire to remain here.

Either way, having a target for deportations is laughable. It results in pursuit of such farces as this, while ignoring the real problem. I'm in favour of very free immigration policies, but in light of the current circumstances, immigrants ought to be vetted to see if they pose a security threat. A murderer in another country ought not to be allowed asylum in the UK simply to escape justice. Many immigrants to the Anglosphere have adopted its core values while celebrating their own cultures, and in doing so, prove the vanguard of our society's belief in core values. Those who have faced the crucible understand the importance of freedom, while those of us born free can only see the impact of Anglosphere values in a reflection, rather like Plato's allegory of the cave.

Immigration is a double-edged sword. If we are not going to provide basic human rights and values for these people in their homelands (which may take force), why should we not allow those persecuted to live in a free society? The issues of benefits to immigrants is a touchy one, given that most of these migrants have sacrificed their savings, and need some safety net while they establish themselves in society, but we must not allow them to fall into the poverty trap. Fortunately, most immigrants are more willing than the underclass to take advantage of the opportunities offered to them.


I'm convinced the North Korean problem, while obviously a big issue, will be sorted out with the tacit cooperation of the Chinese. Zbig Brzezinski in The Grand Chessboard advances a thesis that China desires to be the Pacific rim hegemon, and will be quite active in securing that position. Nuclear armament of North Korea would threaten China's sphere of influence, and possibly lead to the Chinese worst-case scenario, Japanese nukes. Therefore, I'm convinced that China will put a great deal of diplomatic pressure on Kim Jong Il, and failing that, will not greatly object to US action in North Korea, provided that a buffer state can be restored. They don't want US troops on their border.

Human Rights?

The EU has decided to scupper Robert Mugabe's travel ban due to pressure from the French. The next time they protest about US actions potentially jeopardizing human rights, this should be the rebuttal. Mugabe's used the secret police to persecute minority tribes (the Ndebele/Matabele, a Zulu offshoot) in Zimbabwe for over 15 years. He desires an ethnic pogrom, and is welcomed with open arms. Sickening. This guy's as bad as Milosevic, I'm quite sure, but we have yet to see his atrocities. Yet another chapter in the French history of welcoming war criminals who slaughter minorities (Hitler, Milosevic, now Mugabe).

France as she is perceived

Chad Dimpler, Election Analyst has a wonderful commentary on France's role in the world from a self-described woolly liberal perspective.

Kaletsky sums himself up

Britain's Paul Krugman, Anatole Kaletsky writes:

I am about to write a very dull article. That is nothing new, you may say to yourself.

Indeed I do. It says a lot that the Times' comment editor let this pass...

When the French had clearer sight than the USA

Yes, it did happen. Chris Bertram recalls an episode I also recalled many months back, when Ronald Reagan's administration equated a bunch of fascist dictators to British democracy. Jeanne Kirkpatrick and Al Haig were the prime anti-Anglospherists in this debacle, but Chris doesn't mantion Cap Weinberger's profound distaste with their cold warrior stance. In the end, the USA realised it was doing itself no favors sitting on the fence, but I think a lot of younger British Tory anti-Americanism stems from this farrago. It is certainly mentioned regularly in conversations I have with the new Tory isolationists. It is profoundly ironic that Mitterand's decision to support the UK was also on Cold War grounds, rather than in the spirit of the entente cordiale. Of course, that was in the days when the Pentagon was a junior partner to the State Department. That ain't the case now.

A warning from history

Hear the one about the Kaiser, the President and the Daily Telegraph? The modern paper's editorial column says Gerhard Schroder should learn from a previous German monumental blunder.

Reaping the whirlwind

The damage that spin has done to the British capacity to absorb information is causing real problems in that the public is refusing to believe anything the reality of the international situation. How ironic that Tony Blair should suffer the most from this phenomenon. Their response? Yet more spin and hyperbole. As the Telegraph asks,

Can it be that Mr Reid, who as a former Northern Ireland secretary should know a thing or two about security, thought nobody would believe him unless he made their flesh creep? In time of war, a reputation for spin can be a real liability. Those who have recklessly squandered the Government's credibility for nearly six years will not regain public trust by frightening people unnecessarily.

The Telegraph is also right in its proposed solution:

The British have a reputation, usually justified, for responding to threats calmly and without hysteria. What is needed now - above all from ministers - is not alarmism, but phlegmatism.

I do not hold out any hope for Ministers heeding this advice. Let's face it, their upper lips are all hopelessly relaxed...

The Anglosphere Marches On

The meme has legs, it seems. After Andrew Sullivan and Mark Steyn, Boris Johnson becomes a third heavyweight journalist to mention the Anglosphere. What's interesting about Boris' mention is that he does it in the context of the media, which is where, quite obviously to anyone with a degree of observational sense, the practical application of the concept is already occuring. Anyway, Boris has been quoted extensively at Instapundit over the substance of his essay, but I thought those who enjoy the effortlessly superior style of the Balliol Man for the New Millennium (TM) might take relish at this little bit:

Just as everyone was laying into the Number 10 spin machine, the French did something so disgusting, so selfish, and so French, that the British media have had no choice. The press has dropped Alastair Campbell's dodgy dossier, in favour of that time-honoured staple of the British journalist - the orgy of frog-bashing.

Confronted by French treachery, previously fence-sitting newspapers such as the Daily Mail have suddenly seen the merit of the war, and the downmarket tabloids have gone gallistic. You know the kind of articles: they involve references to Vichy, tanks with reverse gears, garlic-guzzling peasants, women of loose morals cosying up to the Boche, and they traditionally end with the cry: "And they eat our children's ponies!"

Very accurate, of course. Time for The Sun to resurrect its "Hop Off You Frogs" campaign, I'd suggest.

Oh, and this bit too:
Each of the three recusant countries has its own bad reasons for vetoing the protection of Turkey. The Belgians are still so ashamed of the Dutroux scandal, in which murderous paedophiles seemed to enjoy establishment protection, that they will leap on any fine-sounding cause in the hope of sanitising their international reputation.

They are also, of course, the most slavish defenders of Europe's cardinal relationship, between Germany and France; which is perhaps not surprising, since they have historically been the favoured route for the one to invade the other.

As for the German leader, Gerhard Schröder, he faces the continuing decay of his country's economic model, and unemployment now rising to 4.6 million. Of course, he wants to boost his popularity at home. He notices that his fellow-countrymen are against the war. He decides to tweak America's tail, in the confident expectation that he will not be taken seriously.

All three have simply calculated (along with Charlie Kennedy) that, if the war goes wrong, if the allies cannot clear Saddam out of Baghdad in short order, then they must be in a position to make political capital; and that means staging a rebellion now.

Add some comment about Franco-German business interests in Iraq (of the military and oil varieties) and you have a decent exegesis of the case for kicking them up the backside. IDS really should consider following where the papers lead in this case...

One for the Trekkies

There's an old theory about Star Trek that says the Klingons are the space Russians, the Romulans are the space Japanese, the Cardassians the space Nazis (a role much better filled by Dr Who's Daleks, IMHO), and so on.

Watching tonight's edition of Enterprise, in which the superior, intransigent, arrogant Vulcans are taught that their way isn't always best made me realise who they are: the space French. Both races even produce remarkably attractive females...

Death and Taxes in a very real sense

Great joke by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show tonight. Commenting on the age of the Nobel economics laureates who stood up (in a manner of speaking) to oppose the President's tax plan, he argued that social security and medicare might be rather more important to them than to others. But what cracked me up was when he said of Franco Modigliani, whose extremely controversial theory about the capital structure of companies (it fails to take tax into account, which is a bit of a problem for it) won him and, erm, Miller the prize in 1985, that he hadn't stood up since his grandson found a golden ticket in a Wonka Bar...

Yesterday's men with yesterday's solutions.

Can Big Brother afford it?

Good news on the compulaory UK ID card front. The data protection watchdog has criticized current plans, and come up with a list of safeguards that I'd wager would make the cards economically infeasible:

An independent body to administer the scheme

Strict limits on the amount of information held on the card

Effective sanctions against misuse

Reliable identity validation, possibly with a form of biometric identifier, and

Strengthened data protection supervision and inspection powers.

Incidentally, take a look at the specimen card in the BBC photo. 'Sebastien Spelier' -- that's a good British name...

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Calling All Brits!

If you are a British citizen, please write at once to your MP to protest against this monstrous injustice:

A GRANDMOTHER who has lived in Britain for 54 years has been told by the Home Office that she will be deported because she is considered to be an American.

Mary Martin, from Trimley St Mary, in Suffolk, was born in the United States and came to live in the UK with her British-born mother in 1949.

Miss Martin, 55, has lived in this country ever since, and has never left to go abroad.

Last Friday she received a letter from the Home Office telling her to leave the country within 10 days because she could not prove she had lived here for 14 years.

Miss Martin said she has owned a business in this country, worked almost all her life and brought up four children.

Letters to your MP do not need a stamp, unless NuLab have decided to modernise that privilege away. Just write to MP, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA and your letter will be delivered. It is MP letters, not direct letters, that sway Ministers, because they see them all. Direct letters to Ministers are diverted to lowly functionaries such as I once was, and, however tightly argued they may be, have no weight at all. Because an MP deserves the courtesy of a Ministerial reply, however, letters to MPs are seen, however briefly, by Ministers, and a weight of letters on one subject sometimes has an effect, encouraging the Minister to question his bureaucrats. A campaign is needed urgently to prevent this innocent woman from becoming yet another victim of the anglosphere's awful immigration services.

Rock the Casbah!

In today's Evening Standard, the commandant of the Metropolitan Police warns that he may have to close Heathrow due to terrorist threats. Further in the article, he cites the presence of hostile elements within the UK as a strong contribution to these perils. For the most part, the police have no one to blame but themselves for this. Many leaders of the extremist sects have violated laws repeatedly (e.g. Sheik Abu Hamza's proposal to kill Americans and Jews), and have not been arrested, while individuals like Robin Page have been under the same laws. One flimsy excuse the Met gives is that arresting these fundamentalist clerics may offend Muslims. That ignores the nature of the law, as all ought to be equal before it, regardless of who might view their arraignment with dismay.

The roots of this 'tolerance' of hate speech lay in false notions of multiculturalism. Many individuals can mediate between respecting and living in their traditions and heritage, and acceding to the minimal expectations an open society places on them. Those who cannot, and militate for the overthrow of the society by violence, ought to be locked up, as British law specifically cites inflammatory speech as a crime. Pim Fortuyn had an interesting thesis that immigration needed to be slowed as many immigrants did not respect the values of Dutch society. While not a call to halt immigration, the British experience shows that there are those within British society who are unwilling to allow others to live according to its mores. This is also true of some native-born Britishers, such as the BNP. Would an immigration 'test', and a requirement to learn English help? Probably. For a large proportion of immigrants who sacrifice their entire lives and savings to bring their families to Britain, I doubt this is a further onerous sacrifice. But for those who seek protection behind the burqa of civil society and plot its downfall, go home. With the current policy, it is not the racists who conjure up images of 'rivers of blood' in today's Britain, but the cowardly so-called refugees who actively desire it, and have said as much.

Howard's End?

Back from Oz. Sydney was spectacular. All the best traditions of the Anglosphere with cheap sushi and attractive women. The conference was quite useful as well. The story that's not making headlines over here is how John Howard's stood up for the Anglosphere against immense popular opinion in his nation (2/3 favour a UN mediated settlement in Iraq). He also benefits from a George W. Bush effect, where his popularity leads that of his policies. He's actually quite an example for Iain Duncan Smith. Neither are particularily photogenic, neither are electrifying orators, neither convey their emotions well (as in 'feeling others pain' during tragedies). The difference? Mr Howard is a conviction politician, and strikes the voters as a trustworthy individual. Most Australians know that Howard will do what he says, and can anticipate future moves on the part of his government. One sees this in British and American voters as well, some of whom hated, yet trusted Reagan and Thatcher. John's even returned from the political grave (he was leader of the Liberals from 85-89, until sacked by his colleagues). At the conference, and in many British op-eds, William Hague seems to be paying notice to Mr Howard's example. He couldn't do any better in looking for a blueprint for Lazarus.