England's Sword 2.0

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Now why didn't the Beeb mention this?

A leading Tory in Wales has been criticised for saying that asylum seekers are 'swamping' the UK:

A Labour Party spokesman criticised Mr Bourne's comments. "This kind of language is not helpful," he said.

(Incidentally, it is interesting that the spokesman of the governing party is quoted after a Liberal Democrat). Anyway, I wonder what that spokesman said when David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, stated publicly that asylum seekers were 'swamping' British schools?

Of course, it cuts both ways. Oliver Letwin criticized Blunkett for use of the word 'swamping' then. What's sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander, and if the Tories are to lose the old Hagueite populist bandwagon-jumping image, Letwin should stand by his previous remarks and criticize Nick Bourne too.

Bang to rights

Rummaging through some files in a looted iraqi ministry, Telegraph journalist David Blair found a real smoking gun, proof that Gorgeous George Galloway MP was in Saddam's pocket all along. Galloway's response has been to call the papers forgeries. This is doubtful. David Blair is, by all accounts, a man of integrity, personally expelled from Zimbabwe by Robert Mugabe, recipient of the top First in Politics from Oxford and former debating partner of a friend of mine. A man of such credentials falling for a forgery is very unlikely. George's days are numbered. Liberation for the people of Glasgow is at hand.

PP: George is threatening to sue. This is really the only card he has left. Jonathan Aitken made the same mistake...

Well played, sir!

Peter Briffa is in The Times, and credited as the author of publicinterest.co.uk. Many congratulations, old chap. The Times is still the paper of record for the UK. Looks like blogging, thanks to the likes of Stephen Pollard, is having more mainstream impact in the UK than in the US. When we see Stephen Green writing in the Washington Post, we'll know the cognoscenti are deserting like Saddam's army.

Monday, April 21, 2003

Eurohistory is bunk

Via the Conspiracy, check out Neil Gaiman (yes, Neil Gaiman) on a move to rewrite European history to emphasize the solidarity of European peoples. His suggestion as to how the Spanish Armada should be taught is priceless.

New Elizabethans

Christopher Howse disses Queen Elizabeth I, probably with good reason. He also disses the British people of today, too:

The Queen, though not asked to declare war, has the stomach for it, if it be just. The British people flinch at the slightest accident among the brave Servicemen facing our enemies abroad. Would the British endure a serious terrorist attack on our own country? I hope so; I fear not.

Howse is famously erudite, so I think he probably fails to read The Sun. He watches the BBC, if he watches television at all, and mistakes their pusillanimity for the people's. I don't see much flinching here, while Richard Littlejohn tells us exactly what many think of the BBC here:

Consider the enormity of this. The pride of the British fleet was forced to take off the air a service provided by the British Broadcasting Corporation because it was pumping out enemy propaganda in wartime.

If the commander of the Ark Royal had refused to allow The Sun on board because it was undermining the morale of our troops, the editor responsible would now be selling The Big Issue in Wapping High Street.

The British public's reaction to major terrorist incidents, and we've had a few, has always tended towards the "string 'em up" approach. It's the cognoscenti and Guardian readers who flinch. I'm sorry that as eminent a correspondent as Howse has fallen for the big lie about the British people.

Where Howse is right is that the support system that enabled British public vibrancy to translate into great achievements is being dismantled. The first approach -- nationalization -- failed, so now the cry is "modernization" and every tradition is being assailed. The monarchy is even at risk, as Howse says:

The Queen cannot help it, but she is one of the forces of conservatism. The monarchy is among the institutions that store values and hand them on to the next generation. The values are unstated but implicit in the institutions: the Lords, the judiciary, universities, the Church. Those are the institutions that politicians set about destroying, with no inkling of what to put in their place.

Gramsci's long march is moving towards its culmination in the destruction of British institutions. The Lords was emasculated while the judiciary, universities and Church were taken over. Conservative activists in the UK might devote a little time towards recovering them, rather than meaningless council seats. I'll have more on this later.

Couldn't resist it...

Well, u-- um, can we come up and have a look?

What Monty Python Character are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Friday, April 18, 2003

Domestication of man

Women are essential. We make men civilized. We take them out back, hose them down, clean them up, and make them presentable. Don't believe me? Take an average single male. Look how he lives. Unclean bathroom, nasty furniture, huge entertainment center and big computer set up. Bring in a chick. Suddenly he has a clean bathroom, clean home, nice furniture, decent food in his fridge, and his floor is relatively clean.

It drives me crazy when single men complain about women who try to "run" their lives. You should count yourselves lucky enough to find a women willing to clean your nasty underwear, clean up after your in the bathroom, make sure your towels and bed linens are clean, and provide you with nice hot meals - all to show how much she cares about you (and herself).

Why do I bring this up? We were out for our fifth wedding anniversary and the guy next to us was complainig because his "girlfriend" had steam cleaned his carpets. She was upset he came home early before she could get everything back in order. Instead of being grateful that his place was clean "for the first time in two years" (according to him), he was upset when she said her surprise was ruined. Instead of being grateful he had such a dame in his life, he left to get drunk on the bar stool next to us.

So men, consider yourselves lucky you've convinced some unwitting chick to love you and take care of you and clean up your crap before you run off and bitch about how "demanding" your woman is. Trust me. We can easily find someone else.

Kris Murray
Iain's (Much Appreciated) Wife

Britain not quite as irreligious as thought?

Well this is interesting. According to a new poll, half of Britain believes in the Resurrection. The figures are higher than earlier polls, but other indicators are also heading back towards spiritual beliefs:

The survey found that women are more devout than men, with 49 per cent agreeing that Christ rose from the dead compared with 43 per cent of men.

Peter Brierley, the director of Christian Research, said that the figures would cheer Church leaders, especially the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who has orthodox views on the Resurrection.

"They add strength to the feeling that Britain is still a Christian country, as evidenced by the 72 per cent who said they were Christian in the 2001 census earlier this year," said Dr Brierley, a former Government statistician.

"The actual percentage is higher than in some recent polls, but the proportion who hold the not unconnected belief in life after death has also been increasing over the past few years."

While this is good news as far as I'm concerned, concern is being expressed about the level of theological knowledge among new Church of England priests.

[A Director of Training for the Church said] "Is it satisfactory for Church of England clergy, on the whole, not to be graduates in their main discipline? The Church has taken such a minimalist approach to theological education for such a long time that it has sold the clergy short."

Critics also believe that theological colleges spend too much time on topics such as "gender power relations", "racial awareness" and "domestic violence" and too little on doctrine and worship.

This all fits in with my general thesis that the Church of England dealt istself a severe blow when large parts of it decided to become a leftist political movement in the early 80s. The Church has failed the flock, rather than the other way round.

Did he have any Frank Frazetta?

It appears Saddam must have had a taste for the sort of art you find on the cover of low-grade Sword and Sorcery books. The BBC posts some of the examples found at his villas here.

Is it just me, or does the hero struggling with the snake in that first picture look a bit, well, Aryan?

Thursday, April 17, 2003

RIP Sir Paul Getty

One of the greatest benefactors of English cricket, books and heritage has died at the age of 70. Son of the American billionaire John Paul Getty, Sir Paul devoted himself to England after a dissolute early life. His Times Obituary gives us the full story. He will be missed by many.

The Matter of the Museum

Boris Johnson is a noted classicist (he once managed to get a reference to Ovid's Metamorphoses Book VIII in a speech on defense policy), so I'm not surprised he gets a little heated over the Baghdad museum issue, asking Why are we allowing the rape of Iraq?

What steps are the coalition forces taking to stop this happening again? As I write, there is still apparently no adequate protection for the National Museum, to say nothing of the provincial museums. Why, finally, did Geoff Hoon seem last week to condone the looting of official buildings? I can think of no explanation, except perhaps that the Government may wish to use the chaos to explain away another embarrassment.

The situation is indeed serious, as a look at the Iraq War and Archaeology site (found via Dr Weevil, I think) will tell you, but we may have been just a little misled as to the extent of the damage. This Command Post entry suggests that talk of the museum being emptied is overblown, quoting the Wall Street Journal as follows:

But, thanks to Iraqi preparations before the war, it seems the worst has been avoided. Donny George, the director-general of restoration at the Iraqi Antiquities Department, Wednesday said his staff had preserved the museum's most important treasures, including the kings' graves of Ur and the Assyrian bulls. These objects were hidden in vaults that haven't been violated by looters.

"Most of the things were removed. We knew a war was coming, so it was our duty to protect everything," Mr. George said. "We thought there would be some sort of bombing at the museum. We never thought it could be looted."

So far, then, it seems that the museum was the subject of a robbery by some with keys to the museum, while other parts remained safe. There may have been a great deal of damage when the museum was looted by people looking for durables. Doubtless many precious artefacts are gone. Any epigraphist knows the value of a small clay tablet, and I am more concerned about them than about artwork. Yet the full story of this incident has yet to be written, and it may turn out to have been less serious than some say.

However, and here I am in agreement with Boris and find other arguments rather flippant, how exactly would it have endangered the military objectives to assign a fire team or two to secure the Museum when intial resistance in Baghdad had been overcome? I also recognize that anyone who argues for that happening should accept that it may have led to the loss of human lives as the soldiers shot potential looters (given what's happened elsewhere, I don't think the soldiers would have been in any appreciable extra danger).

The interesting thing about this possibility is that therefore presumably neither Clare Short nor the webmaster of the Iraq War and Archaeology site would have assigned any soldiers to guard the museum...

Statistical significance

Thanks to The Corner for the link to this Reuters speculation about Saddam's fate. It contains this spectacular piece of relativism:

White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card said in an online discussion he believed Saddam was dead.

But a survey of 7,122 people published by Gulf News on Thursday showed a majority believed he was alive, hiding outside Iraq.

Ah, well, the survey settles it, then.

Natural justice?

Here's what the Philosophical Cowboy describes as the perfect protest sign for our times. What are you gonna do?

Why stop at Europe?

Professor Tim Congdon, one of Britain's brightest economic thinkers, argues in the new Spectator that Britain should propose a new economic future for Europe, on an old model:

We have reached a critical moment. Britain should react in two ways. First, it should advocate a new Efta to include all the existing members of the EU and Efta, plus Russia and Turkey. The UK would belong to this new and much expanded Efta which would have no ambitions to be anything more than a customs union. Second, it should make clear to other members of the EU that free trade and economic interaction are the purposes of its involvement with them, and that it is not interested in political union. Britain therefore proposes to renegotiate the existing treaties, and to withdraw as soon as practicable from the CAP and the CFP, and from the financing of the Structural Funds. (It goes without saying that the repeal of the Single European Act, and of the legislation relating to the Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice treaties, would be part of the process of renegotiation. The 1972 legislation on the UK’s accession to the Common Market might remain on the statute book while the renegotiation was under way, although this would be largely a matter of form.)

Europhiles — although now outnumbered and embarrassed — might say that these proposals are extreme. After all, they amount to ‘withdrawal from Europe’. The answer is that they would indeed amount to the ending of the UK’s involvement in European political integration under EU auspices; they would be a withdrawal from that aspect of ‘Europe’. But will the Europhiles (or rather the EU-ophiles) never understand that the EU is not the same thing as Europe? The truth is that the EU is only part of Europe. France and Germany would resist political integration if that were to involve Russia and Turkey, because they have too many people and, potentially, too much economic power. The EU will never embrace the whole of Europe.

The UK can never ‘withdraw from Europe’, just as it can never withdraw from planet Earth. Europe is our neighbour, and the British government can no more curtail economic and financial contact with the Continent than it can move the land-mass of the British Isles to somewhere in the Caribbean or the Indian Ocean. But it can try to ensure that these inevitably extensive contacts take place in a form that respects its national interests. The objective of a new European Free Trade Area — to which Russia and Turkey would be invited — would be a better and larger Europe. British economic integration with the rest of Europe could be taken further than ever before, but the UK would retain its political independence, its cultural identity, its own constitution, and its separate diplomatic and military capability.

This is all very well as far as it goes. It has been the paralyzing problem of the British Euroskeptic movement that it has not had an alternative suggestion for British economic advantage. Isolationism is simply very unpopular and is therefore a non-starter. Professor Congdon does present an alternative, and it is one that is likely to be well received. But it doesn't go nearly far enough.

We now live in a global economy. The market for British goods and services is far wider than mere Europe. We should not limit ourselves in this way. Europe's economies, as Congdon describes, are faltering, and likely to sink further. Europe is too old-fashioned, too monolithic and, well, too darned white for a forward-thinking global power like Britain. That's why I think we should reach out to free economies all over the world, and John Hulsman has presented an excellent proposal for a global free trade agreement in The World Turned Rightside Up (PDF link). It is an idea compatible with an Anglospheric approach to the world, as most Anglosphere countries possess the sort of free economies necessary to participate in such an agreement. It's also progressive to the extent that I can easily see the Blairite speech recommending it.

Like the Anglosphere, the time for global free trade has come. Let's not waste any more time talking about geographical details.

More on book lists

A few months ago I provided a correspondent with a list of recommended books about the Anglosphere. So You'd Like to... Learn about the Anglosphere is the Amazon list that resulted, I think.

The value of Classics

No slouch when it comes to recognizing half-truths or distortions, Eugene Volokh picks up on an allusion to Roman history in the New York Times. The op/ed says

When the Roman republic gave way to empire, the new supreme ruler, Augustus chose to name himself not "rex," king, but "imperator," from which our words emperor and empire derive, even though its original meaning was more like commander in chief. Thereafter Roman emperors came to depend increasingly on their military. Will our future presidents? Let us doubt it. And yet . . .

Eugene believes this to be inaccurate. He's right. Here's the relevant text of the Oxford Classical Dictionary's entry on Imperator:

Imperator, (Gr. autokrator) a generic title for Roman commanders, became a special title of honour. After a victory the general was saluted imperator by his soldiers. He assumed the title after his name until the end of his magistracy or until his triumph. Sometimes the senate seems to have given or confirmed the title. The origin of this form of honour is unknown, but some religious meaning is possible (cf the formula Iuppiter Imperator). The first certainly attested imperator is L. Aemilius Paullus in 189 BC, as the evidence about P. Cornelius Scipio Africanus is uncertain. The title was assumed especially by pro consuls and gained new importance through Sulla before he was appointed dictator. The increasing influence of the army in the late republic made imperator the symbol of military authority. Sulla occasionally stated (and Pompey emphasized) that he was saluted imperator more than once. Caesar first used the title permanently, but it is doubtful whether in 45 BC he received from the senate a hereditary title of imperator (as Cassius Do 43.44.2 states). Agrippa in 38 BC refused a triumph for victories won under Octavian's superior command and established the rule that the princeps should assume the salutations and the triumphs of his legates. Henceforth, apparently, Octavian used imperator as praenomen (imperator Caesar, not Caesar imperator), perhaps intending to emphasize the personal and family value of the title. Thus the title came to denote the supreme power and was commonly used in this sense. But, officially, Otho was the first to imitate Augustus, and only with Vespasian did Imperator ('emperor') become a title by which the ruler was known. The formula imperator Caesar was sometimes extended to members of the family of the princeps who were associated with him in power. On the death of a princeps, or during a rebellion, the salutatio of a general as an imperator by an army indicated thst he was the candidate of that body for the imperial dignity.

So our NYT commentator has it completely about-face. The use of Imperator by Augustus was because of the increased importance of the military during the last years of the Republic (not just under Julius Caesar, as Eugene suggests), not the signal that the military would become more important. One might venture to suggest that the designation of a civilian as commander-in-chief by the Constitution deliberately defuses the threat of the army recognizing its own general as Commander-in-Chief (whatever McClellan may have thought).

Perhaps Chef from South Park...?

Gosh, I'm embarrassed. Over at The NRO Corner, Jonah Goldberg called me "the Barry White of statistical policy analysis." I wonder if I can get that on my business cards?

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Secular Fanatics

One of my favorite Simpsons jokes occurs at a prison rodeo the family attends. After a rider is thrown off and obviously seriously injured, the warden/announcer comments "Don't worry too much about him, folks. He's in for erecting a nativity scene on public property." The crowd boos and Marge comments, "So much evil in the world."

I am happy to have grown up in an avowedly Christian country. Collective worship every morning at school and a sense of the history, tradition and national role of the Church of England helped shape me. Yet it seems that this great benefit is yet another thing that is being thrown away in the mad drive to "modernize" Britain. It is ironic, as Daniel Johnson points out in his Telegraph column,
The threat of secular fundamentalism, that one of the leading opponents of this movement is an American-born Jew, Oliver Letwin:

What I take to be Letwin's main point is to defend the established Church of England against the intolerance of "state secularism". It may seem paradoxical that a Jewish atheist should defend faith schools and the right of Anglican bishops to sit in the House of Lords, or that the strict separation of Church and State does not seem preferable to a man born and bred in America.

Yet Letwin is a true British Conservative: he values our constitution, Christian through and through, because it has preserved our liberties for centuries. Not only the liberties of Christians, either: Jews, Muslims and others, too, prefer the status quo.

The combination of state secularism and European notions of human rights could destroy the basis of religious pluralism. Faith schools are already losing their autonomy; churches, synagogues and mosques could soon follow. Letwin wonders "if in 10 years' time it will still be legal to proclaim Jesus Christ as the only way to Heaven, a proposition from which I dissent but which I wish to preserve the right of others to utter".

Johnson concludes:

Secular fundamentalism is as much of an internal threat to our civilisation today as the external one of religious fundamentalism. Our leaders are tempted to abandon the distinctively Christian claims on our historical imagination. With Passiontide upon us, the tragic consequences of such a betrayal should be in the forefront of our thoughts.

I agree. I shall be praying this Easter that the Church of England finds the strength to resist the tide that is against it.

Lloyd on Blair

Harry Hatchet has a very important article by John Lloyd, a genuine progressive, looking at what Tony Blair's recent actions have meant for the world, and Europe in particular. Here's a sample:

First, he has thrown down the gauntlet to the international system. He has said – stop your endless debates about sovereignty and human rights. Human rights trump sovereignty. Realism would have to add – he sometimes adds himself – that this will not be so everywhere at every time. He would also add – this would only be so if it can also be aligned with British interests. For many, these reservations are proof of hypocrisy. In fact they are evidence only of inevitable restraints. Morality, in world as in human affairs, is rarely pure: it never is when acted upon. Blair has acted for as much of a moral cause as he can square with realism.

Second, he has set the Anglo Saxon cat among the continental pigeons. Discussion of a common foreign and defence policy – an even more leisurely and circular debate than that on human rights and sovereignty- can never have the same fine careless languor it had before. European leaderships – including those candidate members whom President Jacques Chirac told to shape up or shut up – must now decide whether or not they wish to be partners with the US, or counterweights. On these decisions hang the future of Nato, of transatlantic relations and on the long term balance of powers. For if Europe is to be a counterweight it is bound, at times, to use its weight to counter the US. When these circumstances occur, Europe will seek allies – in Russia, in China, in India and elsewhere. A counterweight thus soon becomes opposition. Opposition can become hostile. Who needs reminding of that these days, even if we still may believe that the present rhetorical torpedoes swishing across the Atlantic will be de-fused by time and diplomacy?

Third, Tony Blair has put another stake through the heart of socialism – not, in this case, the theory as much as the sentiment. British socialism, as elsewhere in the democratic world, has been suffused with pacifism since its inception. It was at times a popular pacifism, stemming from the experience of the First World War, and based on the harsh experience that it was the working class which suffered most when war was declared by their rulers. More recently, the remnants of that old feeling have merged with a multilateralist, UN-led view of the world, which sees all conflicts as capable of resolution by talk and all war as failure. That current has in turn tended to merge with the presently hugely popular view that America is the now the world’s evil empire.

You won't see this article anywhere else but at Harry's place, because it was published in Italy. Yet I think everyone interested in the Blair World Order must read it.

More excuses

Now things are back to normal I have a backlog of articles to write, so don't expect too much today. Do, however, check out a new (to me) blog by Giles Ward. He has a particularly good post on the "Ali" affair in Europe.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

In Memoriam, British education

My wife left a comment bleow about her anger with the various European governments as to their attitudes towards the war. It is testimony to the state of British education that "angry brit" left the following comment, reproduced here unedited:

our country contributed nearly 4billion dollars worth of support and 45,000 troops to an american led liberation of iraq so dont you americans accuse great britian of not contributing, may i also remind you that we spend the most on defense in europe. you may also want to hear that maybe its the united states that holds down defense spending so to keep herself in prime position as the worlds most powerful military power just imagine how far behind a combined europe would leave the united states, the days of american domination would soon disappear both in economic and military circles

But that wasn't enough. He or she then added:

american attitude towards europe is disgusting if the europeans dont automatically agree with the american way of thinking they are slated , we should do what we dam well please, its not like the united states can pressurise europe , especially western europe. A combined GREAT BRITIAN , FRANCE , GERMANY , and ITALY would rival the US just imagine when all the other states come into play america would become the second rate superpower the exact position the USSR occupied during the cold war. What is it they say what goes around comes around , looks like European world dominance is assured some time in the 15 years

Yeah, Europe's gonna get you, America, you big bully, you've been pushing us around long enough. Your defense and technology was just a pretense, see. You hate us and we, well, we'll get REALLY REALLY UPSET with you. There. See how you like it.

The puerility that Shirley Williams and her ilk decided to breed into the British people has never been more apparent to me. The restoration of British independence and self-reliance is urgently required. I hope that Tony Blair, for all his faults, may have contributed towards this.

Asked and answered

Glenn Frazier asks if it would kill me to link to him. No, it wouldn't Glenn. More power to your elbow.

Carry the 2...

If ever you want an accountant's view of something that won't bore you to tears, there is only one souce available. Layman's Logic has a magnificent deconstruction of the silly argument that it's wrong to say that the French are in "it" for the oil when the Coalition is not. can't recommedn you visit this highly enough.

First Amendment UK

By the way, head on over to David Holford's blog to see the nature of liberal fascism in the UK. David posted something on the Hot Cross Bun story I mentioned earlier. I continue to believe that the story was exaggerated, but David is adamant that there's more to it than meets the eye. The journalists who first broke the story stand by their sources, so he's prbably right. Yet some tinpot little Hitlers from Tower Hamlets council (I used to live under this Liberal Democract benevolency, so I know exactly what they're like) have threatened him with a lawsuit for "inciting racial hatred" if he refuses to remove, not just edit, but REMOVE the article he had up complaining about it all. This is incredible. John Milton helped cut off a King's head for the idea of freedom of speech, but these cockroaches just want to expunge any record of something that might reflect badly on them despite having, quite probably a basis in truth.

When the law fails, and guards the wrong-doers, and the people fail to change the law in accordance, that's when you need a real Bill of Rights. For 300 years the UK did not need one. We need one now. And Tower Hamlets can sue me too if they think I'm doing wrong in saying that their sort of policy would have been approved of by the worst sort of racists in the Deep South of the USA.

That book list

Many moons ago I promised Eve Tushnet a list of books I'd recommend to anyone interested in, well, the sort of things this blog is about. Now Mr British Spin (again, no direct link thanks to the blogger bug) gives us an interesting list of works. I've got to get to work on that list...

Arma viresque cano

Very interesting article from the Ashbrook Center. Disarming Iraq, or Disarming Iraqis? by Andrew E. Busch looks at the differing approaches to disarmament of Iraqis by the British and American occupying authorities.

This seems particularly relevant to me. As you'll know if you're a long term reader, I am a convert from the "guns are EVIL!" school of thought prevalent in the UK to a much more balanced view after my exposure to the genuine academic research into the issue available here in the US. Dr. Busch makes a lot of good points, but I do have the following glosses:

First, it should be readily apparent, but no-one has yet mentioned this as far as I can see, that an armed populace can only defend liberty IF AND ONLY IF liberty is a base value for that society. The British and then the Americans realized that guns are a valuable resource in defense of liberty. To other societies, they are instruments of repression, privilege or power. As sensible gun scholars say all the time, guns themselves have no moral value or capacity. It amazes me that people are nonplussed by the idea of Iraq being a gun-owning society but still a dictatorship, or, conversely, that people should use the example of Iraq to say that guns cannot guarantee liberty. Both arguments are hogwash, and I am glad that Dr. Busch did not fall into the trap.

Second, from everything I have read and analyzed, it is of fundamental importance to the continued existence of a law-abiding, armed society, that guns are kept out of the hands of the non-law-abiding elements. To this extent, I do not see anything wrong with the UK approach at the moment. There has been serious looting and law-breaking in Basra. We have no court system to work out who are the Fedayeen and Ba'athists who are the decent civilians. Everything we know about Saddam suggests that the criminal types are the ones likely to have the guns. In this society disarming everyone, therefore, evens up the odds (in a just society, arming the law-abiding evens up the odds). I'd far rather that we disarmed everyone and then allowed gun shops to open in which sale of guns is banned to former Ba'athists than allowed the thugs to keep their guns so they can start their evil again when we are gone (see below, though, for why I think we have to be there for a long time).

In other words, I think it's too early to judge whether the British idea is bad and the American idea is good. Dr Busch may well have a point, and I probably incline to his side if Our Tone starts calling for a legal ban on civilian gun ownership. But I don't think that's the issue yet. At the moment we have to get the guns out of the hands of criminals and into the hands of honest civilians.

I'll be interested to see the views of Natalie Solent on this

The BIG Question...

Is, of course, whether marmite is better than grits. Of course it is. I once saw a good friend try everything from the condiments tray on a bowl of grits in an effort to make them edible. He eventually decided that heapings of Tabasco sauce was the only solution. Kris, I should add, disagrees fundamentally. Anyway, if this is your sort of thing, visit Across the Atlantic, a new conglomerate formed by the ever reliable Group Captain and one young lady called Shell. Dashed decent entertainment, what?

End of Empire

The new City Journal is out, and chock-full of intellectual goodness it is too. I intend to comment on many of the articles therein, but first and foremost is a somewhat depressing article by the good Doctor Theodore Dalrymple on what he has taken away from witnessing the end of British colonialism. Those who read it with an eye on the Coalition's upcoming experiences in Iraq may be dismayed at the prospect. Indeed, it might seem to echo the comments of some before the war that it is futile to attempt to introduce democracy to Iraq, as its culture will not allow it.

Dalrymple's article in many ways echoes one of Kipling's most famous poems, but in reverse. Dalrymple plainly believes that "there is neither East nor West, border, nor breed, nor birth, when two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the Earth." He is no racist, although I am sure that the simple-minded will accuse him of that on skimming this piece. What Dalrymple argues, I think, is that the cultural make-up of Africa is such that the governmental structures left by the British would naturally by used by Africans to exploit their fellows:

In fact, it was the imposition of the European model of the nation-state upon Africa, for which it was peculiarly unsuited, that caused so many disasters. With no loyalty to the nation, but only to the tribe or family, those who control the state can see it only as an object and instrument of exploitation. Gaining political power is the only way ambitious people see to achieving the immeasurably higher standard of living that the colonialists dangled in front of their faces for so long. Given the natural wickedness of human beings, the lengths to which they are prepared to go to achieve power—along with their followers, who expect to share in the spoils—are limitless. The winner-take-all aspect of Africa’s political life is what makes it more than usually vicious.

Dalrymple concludes:

After several years in Africa, I concluded that the colonial enterprise had been fundamentally wrong and mistaken, even when, as was often the case in its final stages, it was benevolently intended. The good it did was ephemeral; the harm, lasting. The powerful can change the powerless, it is true; but not in any way they choose. The unpredictability of humans is the revenge of the powerless. What emerges politically from the colonial enterprise is often something worse, or at least more vicious because better equipped, than what existed before. Good intentions are certainly no guarantee of good results.

There are two comments I should like to make on this article. The first relates to whether the African experience can be generalized to the idea that British colonialism was evil from this conservative perspective. The second asks whether the African experience tells us much about the possible effects of introducing democracy to Arab countries.

For the first point, I turn to Niall Ferguson, who has emerged as the best defender of the British Imperial legacy working today. In the conclusion to his book Empire, which I cannot recommend highly enough, he points out the efforts the British made, and the success they had, in leaving stable government behind. This excerpt is lengthy, but important:

[Comparing the growth in the economies of fomer British colonies to those of others] ... which British institutions promoted development? First, we should not underestimate the benefits conferred by British law and administration. A recent survey of forty-nine countries concluded that 'common-law countries have the strongest, and French civil-law countries the weakest, legal protections of investors,' encouraging both shareholders and creditors. This is of enormous importance in encouraging capital foundation, without which entrepreneurs can achieve little. The fact that eighteen of the sample countries have the common-law system is of course almost entirely due to their having been at one time or another under British rule.

A similar point can be made about the nature of British governance. At its apogee in the mid-nineteenth century, two features of the Indian and Colonial services are especially striking when compared with many modern regimes in Asia and Africa. First, British administration was remarkably cheap and efficient. Secondly, it was remarkably non-venal. Its sins were generally sins of omission, not commission. This too cannot be wholly without significance, given the demonstrable correlations today between economic under-performance and both excessive government expenditure and public sector corruption.

The economic historian David Landes recently drew up a list of measures which 'the ideal growth-and-development' government would adopt. Such a government, he suggests, would

1. secure rights of private property, the better to encourage saving and investment;
2. secure rights of personal liberty ... against both the abuses of tyranny and ... crime and corruption;
3. enforce rights of contract;
4. provide stable government ... governed by publicly known rules;
5. provide responsive government;
6. provide honest government ... [with] no rents to favour and position;
7. provide moderate, efficient, ungreedy government ... to hold taxes down [and] reduce the government's claim on the social surplus.

The striking thing about this list is how many of its points correspond to what British Indian and Colonial officials in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries believed they were doing. The sole, obvious exceptions are points 2 and 5. Yet the British argument for postponing (sometimes indefinitely) the transfer to democracy was that many of their colonies were not yet ready for it; indeed, the classic and not wholly disingenuous line from the Colonial Office was that Britain's role was precisely to get them ready.

It is a point worth emphasizing that to a significant extent British rule did have that benign effect. According to the work of political scientists like Seymour Martin Lipsett, countries that were former British colonies has a significantly better chance of achieving enduring democratization after independence than those ruled by other countries. Indeed, nearly every country with a population of at least a million that has emerged from the colonial era without succumbing to dictatorship is a former British colony. True, there have beeen many former colonies which have not managed to sustain free institutions: Bangladesh, Burma, Kenya, Pakistan, Tanzania and Zimbabwe spring to mind. But in a sample of fifty-three countries that were former British colonies, just under half (twenty-six) were still democracies in 1993. This can be attributed to the way that British rule, particularly where it was 'indirect,' encouraged the formation of collaborating elites; it may also be related to the role of Protestant missionaries, who clearly played a part in encouraging Western-style aspirations for political freedom in parts of Africa and the Caribbean.

In short, what the British Empire proved is that empire is a form of international government that can work -- and not just for the benefit of the ruling power. It sought to globalize not just an economic but a legal and ultimately a political system too.

How can this overview be squared with Dalrymple's? I think there are two important elements to the reconciliation. The first is the role of property rights, that foremost of Landes' prescriptions. British rule in Africa in fact did little to introduce the Anglospheric concept of property rights. Check out Roger Bate's article on the problem with land and water rights in South Africa, for example, or a host of other articles by Africans at the International Policy Network. Most African property rights remain in the hands of tribal elders, so providing no incentive (or ability) to exploit your own property for personal gain. This leads to the problems Dalrymple eloquently describes. It was a failure of colonialism (perhaps caused as much by premature British withdrawal as anything else), but it was not one that happened everywhere.

Second, it is important to note Ferguson's terminology when he says there have been many former colonies which have not managed to sustain free institutions. Most of the Dictators have actively undermined British institutions, rather than exploited them. Mugabe's greatest hindrances to his rapacity has been the existence of an independent legal system and a free press. He has therefore had to remove them in a painstaking manner, which he has been able to accelerate recently. But where the institutions entered public consciousness as part of their national identity, they have been valuable tools in stopping dictatorship and, in one case, Kenya, enabled that happy people to overthrow a dictatorship peacefully. It is not surprising that so many of the dictators have claimed to be socialist, because gave them an ideological basis for dismantling the Landes system that would thwart them, or nationalist, so that they could taint the British systems as bad for the country simply because they were British. Many, of course, were both.

So I do not think that the problem is quite as simple as Dalymple would have us believe. The Anglospheric system that the British exported works, time and time again, when it is allowed to work, and when its basic roots of property rights and individual liberty are allowed time to grow.

This is where we come to the lessons for Iraq. Fareed Zakaria has another interesting article in this week's Newsweek, How to Wage the Peace. It is full of insights into how we might ensure democracy takes root in Iraq, not least this observation from Paddy Ashdown on the lessons of Bosnia:

Paddy Ashdown, the British politician who was appointed “czar” of Bosnia, admits that administrators there got the sequence wrong: “We thought that democracy was the highest priority, and we measured it by the number of elections we could organize. The result even years later is that the people of Bosnia have grown weary of voting. In addition, the focus on elections slowed our efforts to tackle organized crime and corruption, which have jeopardized quality of life and scared off foreign investment.” “In hindsight,” he wrote, “we should have put the establishment of the rule of law first, for everything else depends on it: a functioning economy, a free and fair political system, the development of civil society, public confidence in police and the courts.”

It is precisely that which we should be willing and dedicated to achieve. We must re-establish the rule of law, and not just any law, but a common law system predicated on property rights, personal liberty and security, and contract law. We have the advantage in Iraq that teh country had been secular for many years before Saddam turned to fundamentalism, which I think Dr Johnson would recognize as the true last refuge of the scoundrel. We must use this in resisting calls for the imposition of Sharia law, which would surely spell doom for any attempts to democratize Iraq. From there we should follow Landes' prescriptions, and resist any calls for a quick fix, so that true civil society is established and the people are able to recognize knaves from the honest men they need. If the basic rights of the people and responsibilities of government are established, a true liberal democracy has every chance of taking root in Iraq. The mistakes of Africa should not be repeated in Arabia. And if that means that the coalition is in it for the long haul, so be it. It will require tremendous courage and dedication from the people and governments of the coalition, but they will be thanked for those qualities by history.

Back again

My mother is doing much better now, so I can begin to devote time to the blog again. I'd like to start by pointing you towards an excellent analysis by Mr British Spin [sorry no direct link -- blogger archive bug] on the interesting column in The Sun by Trevor Kavanagh that suggests Tony Blair might use the authority he has got from his position on Iraq to move up the date for a referendum on the Euro. As Mr Spin says, there is more here than meets the eye.

I agree with Mr Spin that Our Tone is giving a boost to the pro-Euro forces when they desperately need it, and tend to agree with his analysis about the outlet and timing, but I think this is mainly a factional move by Tony. He lost a lot of goodwill on the transnationalist left of his party with his stance on Iraq. They are the most likely to go to the Lib Dems if they find themselves continually in disagreement with him. By throwing them this sop, he may make it harder for them to desert after the upcoming Foundation Hospitals debate (at least, I think it's still upcoming). Moreover, given the state of the polls (also referenced by Mr Spin), I think in some ways it is, ironically, safe for him to do this now. A referendum will be lost, as things currently stand, and the transnationalists know it. They will not want a referendum to be held until they know they can win it, so they will want to see his position strengthened as the only real hope of getting the Euro they want. So they will be inclined to stay in the party and back Blair against Brown. Win double.

He's a pretty smart cookie, that Tony Blair.

Saturday, April 12, 2003

Oh, the Brits are good too

I have been accused of blind love for America in my life. Thinking about it this evening, I realized my "accusers" misunderstood. I'm not blind to America's flaws, she has many. Our government is not perfect, nor has it always behaved impeccably. Yet I am in love. With Americans.

I love the fact that our brand of democracy makes our leaders deeply beholden to the will of the people. I love that because our politicians must answer to us with every election, they dare not impose their will on us willynilly. I love our free press that keeps politicians and corporations scared at night. I love the fact that whatever you may think of it, the American justice/legal/political system is one of the most corruption-free on the planet. That we still expect more, delights me.

I love the fact that Americans really want to do what's right. I love Americans because we believe. We believe in ourselves, we believe in faith, we believe in inherent good. Americans want to make connections with others. We want to like you.

I love everyday Americans. We smile at each other. We hold the doors for each other. We help each other without reservation when need arises. We may fight amongst ourselves like siblings, but when push comes to shove, we stand shoulder to shoulder against all comers. Then, we help our former enemies. We like to help.

I love Americans. We come from everywhere on the planet and yet have our own unique culture. America has her problems but I love her people. I trust them to want to do what's right and kind and just. We are good folk who don't want to hurt anyone. We just want to make our country a better place for our kids. I love America. But I love Americans even more.

Kris Murray
Iain's (American) Wife

Thank you

Iain's mother's surgery was successful despite having a ruptured appendix. Again, your support of Iain in a time of crisis touches us deeply. I want to thank you for taking the time to wish us and Mrs. Murray well. I wish I could shake each of your hands and tell you in person how much this has meant to me.
Kris Murray
Iain's Wife

Friday, April 11, 2003

A family emergency

I won't be blogging for a few days. My mother (who is visiting us with my father) was admitted to hospital today and is undergoing surgery for advanced appendicitis. I feel terribly guilty because she said she didn't want to worry me while I was having interviews, which is why it has got so bad. So I hope you'll excuse me if there's a lack of posts until she's out of danger.

More book reviews

Another highly recommended book (which I haven't quite finished) is Lee Kuan Yew's From Third World to First, in which he describes how he transformed Singapore from a barren entrepot into a First World industrial power. He's actually the originator of Third Way-style social democracy, as he's an avowed left-winger who likes the free market and hates communism. Many of his policies were based on those two decidedly non-socialist views.

Play fair, chaps

I disagree with alot of what Green Fairy says, but I actually agree with her far more often than I (and probably she) would expect. Anyway, for some reason, she has been unjustly accused of hacking someone else's site, which strikes me as so out of character it ain't true. Just as The Agonist proved himself to be a silly little boy, Green Fairy's accusers need to be shown up too. Come on chaps, play up and leave a message of support over there.

Thursday, April 10, 2003


Iain directed me to this story from The Wall Street Journal Europe found via Stephen Pollard's site. After reading it, I even more firmly believe that America should walk away from NATO. Why should America pay to defend countries promoting such disgusting anti-Americanism. Screw 'em. From now on, America should only make independent mutual defence alliances with allies who are are not back-stabbing ingrates. Also, they should have some kind of military force as well - I'm tired of my American tax dollars going to jackass cheese-eating surrender monkeys (or wurst-eating pacifist cowards).

Kris Murray
Iain's American Wife

Baghdad Bob!

It had to happen. Baghdad Bob now has a fan site at We Love the Iraqi Information Minister. What a star!

Anglosphere in action

Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of Winston Churchill's honorary citizenship of the USA. Mike Campbell has the details.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Go Home!!!

I just wanted to say "bwahahahahaha" when I saw this picture!

Kris Murray
Iain's American Wife


I was going to post my favorite Shelley poem tonight, but thanks to the Corner's brightest contributer, Andrew Stuttaford, I learn that The Times is doing it in print tomorrow. Anyway, here it is:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things.
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

As they say, liquid gold.

Insights into violence

I need to get copy of the documentary SIX, so well received at blogcritics, but I can recommend to anyone interested in youth violence (and what drives suburban kids to kill in particular) Helen Smith's excellent book, The Scarred Heart, linked to on the blogcritics site. It's full of frightening, but compelling revelations about the psychology of the child killer, and shows you just how wrong the "popular" solutions to the problem are.

Things come together

I've been caught up in job interviews this week (I've had two so far this week and another two to come tomorrow, three of them second interviews), so things seem to be coming together for me personally as much as for the Iraqi people. I received the following in an e-mail from a friend on a discussion board I run that seems to sum up the heart-flet joy of those of us who've thought this war was, on balance, a good thing:

But if you see the reception the Allied troops are getting in Baghdad and Basra and your heart doesn't lift, you're not *?!!**! human. Just put the box on and give yourselves half an hour of it. Yes, they know Iraqis have been killed. They're used to that, and how. Just watch the poor
*?!!**! bastards kicking in the pictures and jumping on the statues, giving *?!!**! flowers to the
*?!!**! Marines.....now there's a thing called "freedom" that's been mentioned now and again on
this board. That's what it *?!!**! looks like, folks.

My friend is a left-winger, verging on anarchist. I think the most interesting thing about this war domestically in both the UK and US is that it has brought reasonable leftists and conservatives together while marginalizing the extremist factions on either side. Interesting that neither of those extremes appreciate properly the Anglospheric tradition of freedom. The extreme leftists think they know better and the extreme right, well, they never thought it was a good idea in the first place...

Europe: the alternative

My good friend Dr Paul Robinson, a man with impeccable military credentials, is currently guest-writing for the excellent EUobserver site. His first offering may surprise many Americans. He argues that, for Europe to become more powerful, it should spend less, not more, on defense. I'll alert Paul to any comments made here.

Forked Tongues

Great scene just now on BBC News 24. BBC's Baghdad correspondent was talking about how much the Iraqis hate the Americans on a split screen, with the other half showing crowds swarming over the toppled Saddam statue. Apparently they know something we don't know, as well. The correspondent claimed that the US plans on instituting a military government. Rumsfeld must have revoked their press credentials, in his war against dissent in the US, as that seems to fly in the face of everything said in DoD press conferences.

What's even more sickening is that the BBC seems to have turned with the prevailing wind today. News 24 is now showing clips of celebration (and oddly, playing down the British role in the liberation of Iraq). These celebrations are genuine, given that the Rubicon has now been crossed. With the investiture of Baghdad, the ordinary civilian knows there's no way Saddam can return, so he has no fear celebrating. Also, the BBC claims hundreds of people are celebrating. Rather odd. The clip around the Saddam statue looks like a bit more than 'hundreds'. The first thing I thought of with the destruction of the statue of Saddam echoes that of the fall of the Lenin statues in Eastern Europe. Oh, by the way, where are all the Iraqis with French flags?

Book of the Month

My recommended reading for this month is Robert Shiller's The New Financial Order. Robert Shiller, the Yale professor formerly known for his book Irrational Exuberance, writes on several new ways to manage risk in today's society. He moots livelihood insurance, home equity insurance, and macro market trading (trading products derived from values of national GDPs), among other ideas. Furthermore, fellow blogger Brad DeLong helped with it, as he is mentioned in the acknowledgements.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

IBC latest

The Philosophical Cowboy has a few extra points on the Iraq Body Count issue over at Layman's Logic.

The unvarnished truth

This letter to The Times is worth quoting in full:

Sir, On August 11, 1990, during the crisis which preceded the first Gulf War, you printed a letter from my late husband, Admiral of the Fleet Lord Fieldhouse.
He had been the tri-Service Commander-in-Chief during the Falklands conflict and, drawing on that experience, he suggested that the responsibilities of a free press in wartime were far greater than those of merely keeping the public informed. Inter alia he wrote:

The “second guessing” of every political and military option, the canvassing of opinion of this professor and that retired senior officer, the placing on the spot of Her Majesty’s Ministers under the glare of live television — these are practices which, while they probably make for a good story, may very well not contribute to the best interests of the nation and its allies.

However, I believe that had he lived my husband would be even more concerned by the US-UK policy which permits the media to have such access to tactical operations. This cannot but risk reporting in which immediacy and sensation are prized more highly than relevance to overall strategic achievement; and, further, the constant bombardment of the public with what is dramatic (and frequently tragic) cannot be good for national morale and thus to the all-important “will to win”.

Indeed, as one who remembers the Second World War, I suggest that had the British media in 1940 had the same operational access and freedom to report which they have today, that war would have ended very much earlier than it did, and with very different results.

If the media would stop staring at their collective navel they might recognize the importance of this point.

Go Gove Go

Michael Gove picks up three common arguments put about by the anti-Coalition side and bodyslams them:

[It] is not too soon to expose the pernicious nonsense that passed for geopolitical wisdom before the conflict began — the pulp fiction of the peaceniks — so that we can learn from their mistakes. Honest men can differ. But we will find it more difficult to build something worthwhile on the rubble of Saddam’s regime if we do not also dismantle those positions occupied before the war that were built on intellectual dishonesty.

Three myths stand out as ripe for deconstruction. The first is the allegation, peddled by Charles Kennedy and Robin Cook among others, that Britain and America armed Saddam’s tyranny. The second piece of nonsense is the notion that targeting Baghdad was somehow a “diversion” from the war on terrorism. The third canard overdue for stuffing is the argument that we must now show “evenhandedness” by enforcing UN resolutions against Israel, just as we have against Iraq.

Anyone who has followed the blogospherical debate will be familiar with how fallacious these arguments are. It's nice to see them picked apart in the British paper of record.

Monday, April 07, 2003

Sliced Bread #2

It seems just about possible we killed Saddam today. The Command Post has a link to the Reuters video of the scene. If this was a mistake, it was a terrible, terrible tragedy, but if indeed Saddam and his thugs were there, then, as the poem this site is named after suggests,

The Kings of Earth in fear shall tremble when they hear/
What the Hand of God hath wrought for the Houses and the Word.

And a gold star to anyone who recognizes the reference in the post title.

Lawks a-mercy

Don't know why I've never permalinked him, but poor old (in the sense of blog veteran) Patrick Ruffini has had to set up a temp blogspot site.

Rethinking 1773

According to The Guardian, the British habit of brewing tea during battle is impressing the Americans. Perhaps they shouldn't have thrown it into Boston Harbor after all...

Woe, woe and thrice woe

Visit Chad Dimpler for a salutary tale of how one man's quest to upgrade his computer led to a day of hard-fought battle for two.

Counting against us

My latest TCS column is up. Don't Count On It is my considered opinion of the Iraq Body Count web site's value.

Fair comment

The British commander in the Gulf has had enough, and directed both barrels at the British media:

... to Air Marshal Brian Burridge, the commander of British forces in the Gulf, the media have gone too far.

"The UK media has lost the plot. You stand for nothing, you support nothing, you criticise, you drip. It's a spectator sport to criticise anybody or anything, and what the media says fuels public expectation. That may sound harsh, but that's the way it feels from where I sit."

The spectator sport analogy is one that had occured to me. But even in spectator sports, local sports commentators support the local team. Large sections of the British media have abstracted themselves from reality to the point where they deserve to vanish from the public's perception.

Talking of hate speech...

I'm very pleased that the Supreme Court has upheld Virginia's ban on cross-burning by the classic 5-4 margin, although they added that the part saying cross burning was prima facie evidence of intimidation was unconstitutional. I haven't seen the opinions yet, but it seems that O'Connor wrote the opinion, supported by Rehnquist, Scalia, Stephens and Breyer. It sounds like Justice Thomas dissented on the grounds that he regards cross-burning as de facto intimidation, not speech, and therefore the First Amendment is irrelevant. The full 63-page opinion is here in PDF form.

PP: Now having read the opinion and dissents, I have to say I find Justice Scalia's quasi-dissent, in which he was joined partially by Justice Thomas, the most convincing. It seems to me that the plurality's decision to declare the Virginia statute's prima facie clause unconstitutional was based on a bizarre set of circumstances in which someone might burn a cross for Highland scottish heritage reasons, or something like that, be arrested and then refuse to defend himself against the charge that he had done so to intimidate. As Justice Scalia says, this is most generous. The Virginia statute seems perfectly constitutional to me in its entirety.

Of course, I'm sure the Volokh Conspiracy will have more to say.

Sic semper tyrannis*

It's looking more and more like Ali Chemical was killed over the weekend. After his narrow escape mid-week, it looks like we folowed him home. Strangely, the image that came into my head was of a special forces soldier sneaking up behind him and sticking a label on his back that said "Bomb me"...

* The state motto of Virginia, meaning "Ever thus for tyrants," i.e. tyrants will always fall, which seems quite an unobjectionable thought to me. Of course, John Wilkes Booth exclaimed it as he jumped onto the stage after assassinating Lincoln, so some people claim now that it is racist hate-speech, which narks me no end.


In the other great conflict, Oxford won the Boat Race by a margin they're describing as closer than the 'dead heat' of 1877. Jolly good, but I can't help feeling that precedent should overrule technology in this of all sporting contests.

It's Labour! New and Improved!

Tony Blair's got a firm head on his shoulders. Now he's trying to boot George Galloway out of the party. Private Eye parodied his meeting with Saddam by showing a balloon from both of their mouths stating "What's it like to be a mustachioed git everyone hates?". First Livingstone, then Galloway. For some reason, Galloway thinks he's a hero to the Muslim community. I thought Kurd Freshta Raper, who fisked him and Yasmin Alibhai (is that pronounced 'alibi?)-Brown was Muslim. It's one thing to protest the war from within a party. It's another to rub shoulders with Saddam while ranting against Tony Blair. Most Labour members I know who oppose the war have no illusions as to what a bad apple Saddam is, but do not support the means. They don't view Saddam and Blair as moral equivalents. Galloway claims that losing the whip would prove that Blair doesn't want free speech in Parliament. Horsefeathers. Galloway would be free to sound off, but not as a Labour party member.

The loon has a editorial in the Guardian today, which is beyond Fisking, as it Fisks itself.

In tribute to Woy!

In tribute to the late Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, who never let political differences get in the way of his gastronomy, I will be posting a few food reviews of London restaurants when I get the time. Right now, I highly recommend Borough Market, where you can get fresh foods from around Britain for about the cost of Sainsbury's/Tesco. Jamie Oliver, among others, shops there for his restaurant. The Greek stand does an excellent souvlakia. It's further testament to the failure of the CAP.. Britain doesn't need to provide subsidies to French farmers for good food... it's doing well enough for itself. (To readers: let me know if restaurant reviews in London are of any use.. I do like finding little holes in the wall with excellent food and value)

Don't shoot me, I'm just a journalist!

While perusing Drudge Report this weekend, Matt Drudge had a link to striking ads shown in France of journalists posing as corpses (please post the link if you have it in the comments section). This is an admirable goal, except for the audience. They aim to show these advertisements in France, Germany, the UK, and the US, countries renowned for their killing of opposition journalists. To me, it's rather like telling the citizens of these countries "Don't kill aid workers!". As for the posters for the Ukraine (where journalist Georgy Gongadze was killing due to investigative reporting a bit too successful for some parties), they're mysteriously not planned.

Friday, April 04, 2003

Michael Kelly RIP

Michael Kelly, the Editor of The Atlantic Monthly has been killed in Iraq. Kelly was one of the best columnists out there and an excellent editor of that venerable periodical. I never had a chance to meet him, but had wanted to do so for some time. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.

What we're up against... Loons

Here is a collection of the great pithy aphorisms of Ayatollah Khomeini. Compare that with this. And if you needed further proof that Qaddafi's absolutely flipped, go read his Green Book. His torturous definition of women is amusing enough (essentially 'a woman is a woman because she is not a man). Coincidentally, his short stories have always been published very quickly in one nation... France. For all the talk of relativism, these people are just nuts. No other way to put it.

They just don't want to win, do they?

John Kerry's called for 'regime change' in the US. One only wonders what fool is advising him. In response to criticism, Kerry's trotted out the old 'chickenhawk' line. The entire concept is rather invalid. According to it, former Marine Nick O'Keefe, leader of Operation Human Shield, has more credence on military issues and patriotism than a former Secretary of Defence or President. Kerry would have done far better to have admitted a mistake.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Plus ca change

Martin Walker of UPI is reporting that the Coalition is Buying the tribes from Saddam. Glad to see that at least one of Lawrence of Arabia's tactics is still being used.

Strange Days

Interesting essay by Sir John Keegan in the Telegraph asking what the Dickens Saddam is up to:

Saddam, or whoever is in charge, is fighting the strangest war. It is tempting to wonder, on the evidence so far presented, whether the Iraqis have been fighting a war at all.

Admittedly there has been a certain amount of sniping and loose shooting. Iraqis in civilian clothes have been firing at American and British soldiers. However, that seems about the extent of enemy activity.

Consider what the Iraqis have not done. They did not defend their frontier with Kuwait. The coalition forces passed through unopposed. They scarcely defended Umm Qasr, Iraq's only and vital port.

It fell to 40 and 42 Commando after three days. They have not fought any large-scale or even small-scale battles, though the territory of their country is being eaten up day by day. More mysteriously they have neither demolished nor seriously defended any of the bridges over the Tigris or the Euphrates, which are essential to the coalition's movements into the country.

If Saddam had some great counter-attack force preparing a trap for the coalition in the national heartland, one might fear that the abandonment of the bridges intact was a devilish plot, designed to make all come right for him in one sudden reversal of fortune.

As he does not possess such a force, Iraq's defensive strategy, if it can be so called, appears casual to the point of carelessness. Moreover, looking through the other end of the telescope, what Iraq has failed to do amounts also to an inexplicable abdication of advantage. Blown bridges are strong defences, as long as blown in time.

Keegan thinks a big surprise is improbable. I agree with him that this war is more mysterious than anything else.

Praise where praise is due

Nice article in The Washington Times praising British tactics in Basra:

As U.S.-led forces made rapid progress toward the capital, a senior military official provided The Washington Times with a glimpse into the plan, soon after he emerged from a commander's briefing on its contents.

"In Baghdad, we will definitely use a lot of the effective techniques and utilize some of the larger strategic lessons we learned in the British efforts over Basra," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Basra has not yet fallen, with the British appearing to play a cat-and-mouse game with the enemy forces.

The British, with extensive experience handling the Northern Ireland problem, have proved adept at dealing with the Iraqi paramilitary forces, who at times have surprised U.S. forces elsewhere by behaving as terrorists rather than soldiers, he said.

Coalition commanders also are seeking to revamp the public relations campaign by analyzing why the British forces, albeit only a seventh of the number of U.S. personnel in the theater of war, apparently have avoided accidental killings of civilians.

As I said before, the US is pre-eminent when it comes to devastating the enemy, but even the Pentagon admits the Brits know better when it comes to this sort of thing. Mutual recognition of other parties' capabilities is key to an effective alliance.


Oy vey. Another day, yet another article claiming that America's become a police state, censoring all anti-war sentiment. For some reason, most of these commentators confuse the views of the market with government mandated views. Simply because there's not a public appetite for certain views at times doesn't mean they're censored, but that the voice of the market is taking part. If a business judges that playing Dixie Chicks songs will lose it advertisers, it's fully entitled to stop playing their songs, and not due to any amount of censorship. As a further point, Mikey Moore's film is still playing, as there's a public appetite for it. The claim of censorship is akin to the belief that as no one's buying your product, some ominous force is supressing their sale. In short, it's laughable.

By the way, the Independent's posting adverts around London stating "Don't let truth be the first casualty of war".

Home Orifice

In the latest bit of idiocy from the Home Office, a Welshman born in Kentucky is set to be deported after applying for a UK passport. He's lived here for 55 years, hasn't caused any trouble, as opposed to others, yet is more damaging to the fabric of British society than Taliban taking the dole. To put it bluntly, the lunatics have taken over the asylum. I'm actually rather surprised that Mohammed Al-Fayed hasn't applied for asylum yet. For some reason, right of abode stands when you're fleeing a trial in your homeland (among other arguments, the Taliban welfare khalifaan claim they can't get a fair trial in their homeland. Fine.. then let's send them to the Hague), but not when you're a law-abiding citizen whose parents forgot to fill in the paperwork. With this sort of policy, Enoch Powell may be right. While bonafide immigrants to Britain have to wait in line to make their lives here, Blunkett is letting in those who wish to perpetrate their hatred under the freedoms alllowed in Britain. Rivers of blood will flow if we let in the hate-mongers while keeping out those who genuinely wish to participate in the Anglosphere's way of life. Not only is it unjust to deny an Indian (or for that matter, any other 'immigrant' who's going through the proper system) family immigration as their slots will be occupied by accessories to terrorism, it is also dangerous to society.

Why is this guy Poet Laureate?

Andrew Motion fires away in the Guardian today with another one of his works. I've never had any time for him, simply because I think Tom Paulin has more poetic talent than he does. For that matter, so do most boy bands. Is there procedure to strip Motion of his title? In his several years as Laureate, he hasn't produced a single good piece of work.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Eye of the Beholder

The Honourable Member for Baghdad Central, Gorgeous George Galloway, knows where the broadcasting bias is. Interviewed by Arab News, he tells us how pro-war the BBC is:

Galloway said that he routinely watched both Al Jazeera and the BBC -- “the Blair or Bush Broadcasting Corporation,” as he put it - and was watching two wars at the same time.

The BBC was pumping out war propaganda using the language of the warriors and having “cast to the four winds” any pretense of journalistic objectivity. There were no pictures of the suffering civilians or of the streets littered with dead and dying bodies in Basra, he said.

“It’s just whiz, bang and lots of roaring engines and British and American soldiers firing their hi-tech weaponry into a third world people.”

“On Al Jazeera and other Arab channels, we are seeing an entirely different war. That’s the war that is being seen by the audience where the consequences will be most felt.

I trust Michael Moore will be making a video biography of this eminent statesman. It could be another Oscar candidate.


Grateful to Stephen Pollard for the funniest headline I've ever seen: US war planners lack professionalism: Belgian foreign minister. Pardon me while I pick myself up off the floor.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Why hasn't this made the British Press?

You'll have seen it on Instapundit already, but the Australian Broadcasting Corporation story Iraq protesters deface British war monument in France is strikingly absent from British news sites. The most important details:

The words "Rosbifs [British] go home! Saddam Hussein will win and spill your blood" were painted in French over the base of the cemetery's main monument - an obelisk topped by a cross.

On one side was a swastika and the words "death to the Yankees".

Also daubed were the words "dig up your garbage, it is fouling our soil," and "Bush, Blair to the TPI (International Court of Justice)".

Disdain for reality, anti-semitism and transnationalism all in one incident. Wow.


I don't comment much on smoking research, because it's a quick way to destroy your credibility, but this New Scientist article takes the cake:

A six-month ban on smoking in all public places slashed the number of heart attacks in a US town by almost a half, a new study has revealed.

Wow! That's devastating, isn't it? Let's take a look at the numbers:

During an average six-month period, heart attack admissions to the hospital had averaged just under seven per month. But this fell to less than four a month during the smoking ban.

Any inference from this that smoking bans will reduce heart attacks by 50 percent is just plumb crazy. This is making a very large moutain out of a very small molehill. Now, it is a general rule of scientific inquiry that you should not assume a researcher's data is faulty because of any motives they may have. However, if the data is objectively faulty or conclusions appear overblown, then it seems perfectly fair to ask why. In this case, the researcher, Stanton Glantz, has a history. He authored a passive smoking study which found a 30 percent increased risk of cancer, an increase which is barely recognizable in epidemiological terms, but which was hyped as deinitive proof of the ills of passive smoking. Mike Fumento commented on him:

... back in the 1970s, Dr. Glantz founded the American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation. Before his 1991 report, he had referred to the tobacco companies by that very un-politically correct term, "the bastards."

Every reporter who's ever covered tobacco issues knows of Dr. Glantz's activism. Yet Dr. Glantz's study was widely covered in the media without criticism.

This new paper was presented at a professional meeting, so has not been peer-reviewed yet. I'll be interested to see how it proceeds to publication.

Dispatches from the Front

I received this via military sources, and it is unclassified, I hasten to add. It is part of a dispatch from the Master Gunner of one of the cavalry corps out there in the middle of Iraq, intended for widest possible distribution to those preparing to go into Iraq. Most of it is incomprehensible tank-related stuff, but I thought these comments were worth excerpting:

Remain Vigilant!

Be Paranoid!

Learn to wear heavy flak jackets in the turret.

Chin defilade is now the norm. ...

On the enemy:
Smart, Flexible, Utilizing all means at their disposal. They have moved ammo in civilian trucks, held weapons to their own people's heads, and pretended to be doctors' with asthmatic children. Pretend to surrender then open fire. Units recommend that you err on the side of precaution. Put all civilians down before they get close to you. SEARCH EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING. Divorce the personnel from their vehicle be prepared for a car bomb.

Please pass this on to all tank/Bradley companies and anyone else who you think could benefit from these lessons learned. These fine troopers have been down the road and want follow on forces to be prepared. Not once was I asked when they would be going home. They had just come out of 7 days of continuous combat ops, gotten a good night's sleep, pulled some maintenance and are rearing to get on with the job. I did not observe any loss of focus or shirking by the troops. As one 1SG put it "Even the meatball's seem to get their act together when the bullets fly!"


It's clear to everyone what we're up against here. It's unkind to rats to say that they're cornered rats. Yet they are clever, and, as the man says, flexible. In the midst of the technical stuff was the news that the enemy has taken to putting AA guns in the back of pick-ups and firing them into the backs of tanks (reminds me of how the Germans in the Desert War adapted their 88mm AA guns as anti-tank guns). Yet it also suggests that we're just as flexible: the tank crew have started using captured AK-47s as crew protection weapons. In any event, and assuming this is not a wind-up, some very interesting reading.

Monday, March 31, 2003

Destroying Local Government

Mrs Thatcher neutered local government in the UK when, for some reason, people started voting in local elections on national issues. To consolidate their positions, the extreme leftists elected on the basis that they weren't Tories challenged the national government's authority. Mrs T would not stand for this and cut a swathe through local democracy. It destroyed the left's power base, but had far reaching implications for local accountability. I think it was her greatest mistake not to restore local democracy after the left had been crushed. Now New Labour is simply finishing off what remains. As I've mentioned here before, they have forced local authorities in the South to raise their local tax bills so that they can subsidize failing councils, mostly in the North. The Telegraph calls it The penalty of thrift:

There is a simple enough way to [assess whether the rise is fair]. Look at the percentage rise in your bill, and consider whether local services have improved commensurately. If your council tax has gone up by, say, 20 per cent, have you seen 20 per cent more policemen on your streets, or 20 per cent more dustmen? And if not, where is all the money going? If you live in a Labour borough, most of it will have gone on local administration; if not, it will have gone on someone else's local administration.

The most objectionable feature of all this is that we are destroying the concept of local accountability. Labour's re-jigging of the central government allocation has the effect of rewarding profligacy and punishing thrift: the worse a council performs, the higher its block grant.

Local democracy is absolutely essential to the health of any democratic nation. I hope the Tories are able to take advantage of this in the run-up to the local elections in a month or so's time.

As I said, one Cook is too many

The "principled" resignation of Robin Cook from Tony Blair's cabinet was somewhat tarnished yesterday as he called for British troops to come home before any more died. The Daily Telegraph examines the implications of this statement:

First, and most obviously, catastrophe would fall on Basra. Any citizen who had failed to fight the British would be deemed a collaborator. In southern Iraq, this would be a very wide category indeed: soldiers who deserted, or who were insufficiently zealous in their resistance; civilians who failed to volunteer; families who sought to flee across the lines; anyone unfortunate enough to have fallen foul of the local Ba'athist gauleiters. ...

A second consequence would be, paradoxically, a prolongation of the war that Mr Cook finds so "bloody and unnecessary". British forces are holding a large section of the allied line. Pull them out and Saddam Hussein would pour his forces southward in an attempt to turn the American flank. Whether or not you think this war is justified, it is culpably irresponsible not to seek its swift conclusion.

Above all, a British withdrawal would destroy the whole basis of our post-war foreign policy, leaving us isolated in Washington and Brussels, and despised by our enemies. The Atlantic alliance would never recover from such an act of treachery; nor would Britain's reputation.

Indeed. So why did Cookie make this idiotic assertion?

In fact, there is only one plausible explanation for Mr Cook's action, and it has to do with domestic rather than international circumstances. One of the curious aspects of Tony Blair's premiership is that, unlike previous Labour prime ministers, he has had no senior Left-wing critic on his own benches. The considerable disquiet that he provokes in the Labour movement has therefore had nowhere to coalesce - until now.

In resigning when he did, Mr Cook was consciously seeking to become a kind of contemporary Nye Bevan. If this had simply been a side-effect of his genuine opposition to the war, there would be no dishonour in it. But, yesterday, Mr Cook placed his own ambition above the interests of our troops in the field. Suddenly, his resignation looks rather less principled, and he seems a meaner man.

Anyone who had followed Cook's career could have told you that. His ex-wife, the victim of a spectacular piece of adultery, could probably have done so as well.

Bill Hicks should have read this

The late comedian Bill Hicks used to do a skit about the first Gulf War which included the rather funny joke (I'm paraphrasing here), "You know, just before the war the generals were saying 'The Iraqis have dreadful weapons, terrible weapons.' How did they know? 'We checked the receipt...'"

It's all bunkum, of course. The Dissident Frogman shows us exactly who supplied Iraq with its weapons. USSR/Russia, France and China supplied 72% of Iraq's weapons between them from 1973-2002. The US supplied a measley 1% (UK -- too small to register).


The Mirror is protesting against diabolical American plans to impose Western ideas on Iraq. Stephen Pollard has the dreadful details.

TCS Column Up

Hard Cell looks at the rationale behind banning cell phone use while driving and finds it's not as clear-cut as it seems.

Moral Hazard

In today's Thunderer (always a great column for blogging), Ben Webster makes the case for abolition of concessionary travel for the elderly. I quite agree. For one, much price discrimination can take part in a free market on the part of companies. Given that yield management is a feature key to transport companies (a short explanation: yield management is selling extra seats at slightly above the marginal cost, but usually below the average cost. Think of a plane. When it takes off, the fixed costs are incurred. Therefore, selling a seat for a low amount will provide more net revenue), they have an incentive to fill buses, even at deep-discounted fares. In addition, Webster rightly notes that there's no means-testing involved for a free pass. Although elderly pressure group argue that free travel is needed for errands and visits, the same case could be made for students, another group earning low-incomes.

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Why we work

Mr British Spin quotes a lovely song by Elvis Costello about Shipbuilding, one of the great lost industries of the North-East of England. At one point in the first half of the last century, half the world's ships were built on the River Wear. The industry there is as good as dead now. Yet I'm not one to wax nostalgic for dangerous occupations. My grandad was an official in the National Union of Mineworkers and the last thing he wanted was for his son to follow him in his occupation. It was dangerous, hard work, which no father should wish upon his son. That's one of the reasons I found the Miner's Strike in the early 80s so disingenuous. The claim they were fighting for jobs for the community just stuck in my craw. The authentic voice of Tommy Armstrong, the Miner's Poet, should be heard:

Men and boys set out that morning
For to earn their daily bread
Never thinking that by the evening
They'd be numbered with the dead
Let's think of Mrs Burnett
Once had sons but now has none
In the Trimdon Grange disaster
Joseph George and James are gone.

I don't know much about shipbuilding (although I do know that the job of rivet-catcher involved catching red-hot rivets flung at you in a bucket, not the most attractive of occupations), but I for one am glad there are few jobs left in mining in the North-East of England.

Saturday, March 29, 2003

Everything's just peachy

I cracked a smile at The Onion's Point-Counterpoint: The War On Iraq. The antiwar forces might say, "See -- you have no argument." The interesting thing is that I was watching a Discovery Wings program today about the RAF and Winston Churchill himself said basically the same thing during the dark days of the Battle of the Atlantic. Hope for the best was essentially his message. How would he have survived modern satire?