I don't agree with many of his conclusions, but Reason of Voice is a nice, well-argued centrist blog. And the formating issue is exactly why I abandoned that template very early on in my blogging career.
"Anti-Americanism I see not as a criticism of individual policies or even an individual president. It's a sort of racialist view that the USA is wrong in principle and wrong in practice.
"It is a generic attack on America and American standards and American values and approaches.
"I'm very worried about anti-Americanism because I think it is deeply corrosive to a relationship that is critically important for the overall security of the world.
"These attitudes are deeply worrying, deeply corrosive and have to be tackled head on. If they're not, then the future is bleak indeed.
"If they continue to be criticised in that unreasoning and emotive way then I see disengagement being the outcome and that being much more dangerous to all of us than American involvement or interventionism."
"I am worried about trite anti-Americanism in this country," he told the programme.
"I think that people get obsessed about the United States because of its immense wealth and power. I think it's just become fashionable, this kind of anti-Americanism, and it's a convenient parody.
"If you look at the United States of course there are things that we would not necessarily approve of, but if you look at the US's contribution to where we are today, it has been immense and for the good.
"First of all they did literally save Europe from the most terrible tyranny in the Second World War but in addition if you look at IT, you look at biotech, the things that these days keep us going, make our lives happier and healthier, it's to America that we owe a huge amount.
"People need to remember that."
Surviving Divorce: A Handbook for Men by Gay Search
A well-written and challenging book which I bought for my Uncle Sandy as he attempts to cope with the aftershock of divorce. Unfortunately he thought the author's name was a coping strategy being suggested and he refused to read it.
"We are supposed to be vicious and cruel, but this goes beyond anything that anyone could ever do."
My anti-Americanism has become almost uncontrollable. It has possessed me, like a disease. It rises up in my throat like acid reflux, that fashionable American sickness. I now loathe the United States and what it has done to Iraq and the rest of the helpless world.
I can hardly bear to see the faces of Bush and Rumsfeld, or to watch their posturing body language, or to hear their self-satisfied and incoherent platitudes. The liberal press here has done its best to make them appear ridiculous, but these two men are not funny.
I was tipped into uncontainable rage by a report on Channel 4 News about "friendly fire", which included footage of what must have been one of the most horrific bombardments ever filmed. But what struck home hardest was the subsequent image, of a row of American warplanes, with grinning cartoon faces painted on their noses. Cartoon faces, with big sharp teeth.
It is grotesque. It is hideous. This great and powerful nation bombs foreign cities and the people in those cities from Disneyland cartoon planes out of comic strips. This is simply not possible. And yet, there they were.
We are accustomed to these sobriquets; to phrases such as "collateral damage" and "friendly fire" and "pre-emptive strikes". We have almost ceased to notice when suicide bombers are described as "cowards". The abuse of language is part of warfare. Long ago, Voltaire told us that we invent words to conceal truths. More recently, Orwell pointed out to us the dangers of Newspeak.
But there was something about those playfully grinning warplane faces that went beyond deception and distortion into the land of madness. A nation that can allow those faces to be painted as an image on its national aeroplanes has regressed into unimaginable irresponsibility. A nation that can paint those faces on death machines must be insane.
There, I have said it. I have tried to control my anti-Americanism, remembering the many Americans that I know and respect, but I can't keep it down any longer. I detest Disneyfication, I detest Coca-Cola, I detest burgers, I detest sentimental and violent Hollywood movies that tell lies about history.
"The language of Shakespeare," the commentator intoned, "has conquered Vietnam." I did not note down the dialogue, though I can vouch for that sentence about the language of Shakespeare. But the word "dollar" was certainly repeated several times, and the implications of what the camera showed were clear enough.
The elderly Vietnamese man was impoverished, and he wanted hard currency. The Vietnamese had won the war, but had lost the peace.
Just leave Shakespeare and Shakespeare's homeland out of this squalid bit of revisionism, I thought at the time. Little did I then think that now, three years on, Shakespeare's country would have been dragged by our leader into this illegal, unjustifiable, aggressive war. We are all contaminated by it. Not in my name, I want to keep repeating, though I don't suppose anybody will listen.
Sweno, the Norways' king, craves composition:
Nor would we deign him burial of his men
Till he disbursed at Saint Colme's inch
Ten thousand dollars to our general use.
Macbeth, Act I, scene ii
America uses the word "democracy" as its battle cry, and its nervous soldiers gun down Iraqi civilians when they try to hold street demonstrations to protest against the invasion of their country. So much for democracy. (At least the British Army is better trained.)
America is one of the few countries in the world that executes minors. Well, it doesn't really execute them - it just keeps them in jail for years and years until they are old enough to execute, and then it executes them. It administers drugs to mentally disturbed prisoners on Death Row until they are back in their right mind, and then it executes them, too.
They call this justice and the rule of law.
America is holding more than 600 people in detention in Guantánamo Bay, indefinitely, and it may well hold them there for ever. Guantánamo Bay has become the Bastille of America. They call this serving the cause of democracy and freedom.
A great democratic nation cannot behave in this manner. But it does. I keep remembering those words from Nineteen Eighty-Four, on the dynamics of history at the end of history, when O'Brien tells Winston: "Always there will be the intoxication of power… Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - for ever."
We have seen enough boots in the past few months to last us a lifetime. Iraqi boots, American boots, British boots. Enough of boots.
I hate feeling this hatred. I have to keep reminding myself that if Bush hadn't been (so narrowly) elected, we wouldn't be here, and none of this would have happened. There is another America. Long live the other America, and may this one pass away soon.
Alan Milburn, the Health Secretary, was repeatedly interrupted by Labour backbenchers worried that foundation hospitals would have an unfair advantage over other hospitals in the NHS.
Who died and made them Capt. Kirk?
With the memory of Easter still fresh in our minds, the cries of “Allelulia” fading on the air, it grieves me to say that I still hear around the parish odd voices of doubt and disbelief.
“It’s all very well, Vicar,” they say, “but where are those ‘weapons of mass destruction’ that you told us Satan was preparing to unleash?”
Well, for goodness sake, there’s no pleasing some people, is there?
“Show us the weapons,” they cry, “and we will believe!”
Doesn’t that ring a few bells from scripture?
And what was the reply? For those of you with short memories, let me remind you! The reply came loud and clear, echoing down the ages, “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed!”.
You see, it’s that simple! I don’t want to get too heavy and theological here, but this is an important point which all the doubters have really got to start taking on board!
Just because you can’t see something, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.
Isn’t that the whole basis of our faith?
I remember when we were all starting out on our journey, a lot of people used to ask, “What is this Third Way that you keep telling us about, Vicar? We can’t see it.”
But, hey, don’t those people look silly now, when everyone now realises that it was there all along!
If people hadn’t been so visually impaired (no offence to Mr Blunkett!), they would have recognised it right from the start, instead of acting like a lot of Doubting Thomases!
And what about all the wonderful improvements we’ve been making in the parish -- to our schools and hospitals?
People say that they can’t see these either. But we all know they exist, and that we have every right to be proud of them!
And sometimes the opposite is true, isn’t it? People see things which aren’t there, like all this crime that’s supposed to be on the streets, that we know perfectly well doesn’t really exist.
So where does that leave us? I’ll tell you where. We all have to believe that those weapons of mass destruction exist just as we have to “believe” all the other articles of our faith.
In fact, I’m going to suggest that at our family worship this week we say a slightly amended version of the Creed, to come just before we give each other the sign of war:
“We believe in the Weapons of Mass Destruction, Visible or Invisible...” and then continue as usual.
So, let’s have an end to all this negative in-putting, shall we? Let the Good News go out loud and clear this Eastertide.
“Our enemy Satan is o’erthrown,” (or overthrown, as we say now!)
There has been a regime change in Hell! Rejoice! Rejoice! (The Little Book of Gloats).
Yours in victory,
going to have to make some fundamental strategic decision whether to ally with the US or with Europe, or perhaps go with a sort of Anglo-Saxon bloc as some have suggested?
Not having to choose between geography and history is the essence of the Anglosphere message. If only Tony Blair would realize this.
Our relationship has been long. The ties between us are strong. The bonds, on a people to people basis between Americans and Australians are deep and rich. This relationship is nourished by many things. It is nourished by shared history. It is nourished by common commitment to democratic ideals and values. And it is nourished by our deep and resolute commitment to the role of the individual in society and the place of the family in the national framework of both of our nations.
David Bowe, a Labour MEP, at a lunch-time briefing on the mid-term review of the CAP with Lord Whitty of DEFRA: "I'm here to represent the interests of the consumers, not the producers!"
I think I'm here to take due account of the interests of both farmers and consumers. Indeed at a deeper level, I hope the interests of British farmers and British consumers are not that far apart. We all want fresh, wholesome local food to be available to affordable prices. We all want the countryside to be well-maintained, and to be sustainable.
I awoke in Brussels on April 30th to hear BBC World Service doing a piece on the Czech Republic. They were trying to draw a comparison between on Czechs and the Irish, on the rather tenuous grounds that the Czechs apparently feel Celtic, and are fans of Irish pubs and Riverdance.
The BBC simply asserted -- without discussion or analysis -- that the Irish "economic miracle" was the result of EU membership, so the Czechs could expect to do equally well in the EU.
Of course the EU has dumped truck-loads of money on Ireland. Ironically Ireland's net annual receipts from the EU have been about the same as the UK's net contributions. We could cut out the middle-man and just write an annual cheque for £3 billion to Dublin.
But according to my good friend Patricia McKenna, an Irish MEP, a much greater factor has been US investment. Ireland receives more US inward investment per capita than any other country. A recent study showed that 80% of US investors in Ireland had CEOs with Irish connections. So they come for family reasons -- and of course for the English language.
Another factor is the currency. About the time Ireland joined the EU, it also broke the link between the Irish Punt and the £ Sterling. Many economists believe that having their own interest rates and monetary policy was a major factor in Ireland's success. Joining the euro has reversed that advantage, and Ireland is already feeling the pain of inflation from having the wrong interest rate.
Needless to say, I was immediately on to the BBC complaints line -- which (in case you'd forgotten!) is 0870 0100 222.
"That a dictator has been displaced. That a mass-murderer has been removed from the means of perpetrating his crimes. That the bankrollers of the suicide-bombing Jew-hating Arab Liberation Front are gone. That a people have been freed."
BRITAIN will be forced to scrap the National Health Service if it joins the euro, Gordon Brown was told yesterday.
The European Central Bank, which manages the single currency, gave warning that free health care would have to be restricted to emergency services only, otherwise the cost would overwhelm European economies and lead to soaring inflation. Britain has one of the biggest tax-funded health services in the EU, with only a tiny proportion of treatments paid for privately.
The report, in the Frankfurt-based ECB’s monthly bulletin, said that Britain’s ageing population would make state pensions, tax-funded health services and long-term care unaffordable in the future.
Tax rises to meet the extra demands would soon become politically unacceptable and the sums in question would be too large to borrow, the ECB said.
The article, which is published under the ECB’s authority rather than being just a working paper by researchers, recommends swift reforms with patients paying for more private operations. Governments should distinguish between “essential, privately non-insurable and non-affordable services”, such as emergency treatment, and those where “private financing might be more efficient”.
“Greater private involvement in health care financing can be achieved, in particular, through patient co-payments, as already implemented in a number of countries.”
We aren't talking "Private Finance Initiative" here; the ECB is suggesting that for most operations patients should arrange their own insurance voluntarily, pay up when they need it, or go without. In suggesting patient co-payments for operations, rather than mere privatisation of provision with continuing government funding, the report goes far further than anything suggested by the Conservatives.
He has made no secret of his gambling, Bennett adds. He says he was in Las Vegas in April for dinner with the former governor of Nevada and gambled while he was there. “I’ve gambled all my life, and it’s never been a moral issue with me. I liked church bingo when I was growing up. I’ve been a poker player.” He says that after a recent speech in Rochester, he was asked whether he would run for president in 2008 and answered that he might enter the World Series of Poker instead.
“I play fairly high stakes. I adhere to the law. I don’t play the ‘milk money.’ I don’t put my family at risk, and I don’t owe anyone anything,” Bennett says. The documents do not contradict those points.
Bennett, who earns more than $50,000 per speaking engagement and made several hundred thousand dollars in publishing advances for the more recent of his 11 books, says “I’ve made a lot of money and I’ve won a lot of money. When I win, I usually give at least a chunk of it away [to charity]. I report everything to the IRS.”
When reminded of studies that link heavy gambling to divorce, bankruptcy, domestic abuse and other family problems he has widely decried, Bennett compared the situation to alcohol. “I view it as drinking,” Bennett says. “If you can’t handle it, don’t do it.”
By furtively indulging in a costly vice that destroys millions of lives and families across the nation, Bennett has profoundly undermined the credibility of his word on this moral issue.
complained of a "cabal of Jewish advisers" unduly influencing Tony Blair.
Mr Dalyell made the remarks in an interview with Vanity Fair magazine, identifying Lord Levy, Tony Blair's Middle East envoy, Peter Mandelson, whose father is Jewish, and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who has Jewish ancestry, the Daily Telegraph reported.
"I am fully aware that one is treading on cut glass on this issue and no-one wants to be accused of anti-Semitism, but, if it is a question of launching an assault on Syria or Iran... then one has to be candid"
Dalyell's 'Jewish cabal' remarks denied
Further evidence of Number 10's anxiety to avoid religious rhetoric during the Iraq war emerged yesterday in an article in The Times by Sir Peter Stothard, the newspaper's former editor.
While having make-up applied for his screen appearance on the eve of hostilities in Iraq, the Prime Minister reportedly told his staff: "I want to end with, 'God bless you'."
At this point, according to The Times article, there was "a noisy team revolt in which every player appears to be complaining at once". Staff said that this was "not a good idea", to which an irritated Mr Blair - raising his voice - responded: "Oh no?"
One unidentified member of the Blair team reportedly replied: "You are talking to lots of people who don't want chaplains pushing stuff down their throats."
When the Prime Minister responded by saying: "You are the most ungodly lot I have ever . . .", his speechwriter Peter Hyman, who is Jewish, replied tartly: "Ungodly? Count me out."
Others intervened in what was becoming an impromptu theological debate: "That's not the same God." Mr Blair remained defiant. "It is the same God," he said.
In the end, however, the religious phrase was not used and the message ended with a simple "Thank you".
The research, carried out at the tail-end of the conflict in Iraq, shows three quarters of Britons (73%) consider America to be Britain's most reliable ally - with Australia getting the second highest poll position with one in 20 (four per cent) naming it. European countries do not fair so well, with France, Germany and Ireland considered Britain's most reliable ally by just one per cent each.
When asked to name Britain's least reliable ally, France is named by 55%, with America named by one in 17 (six per cent) and Germany and Russia each named by three per cent.
Certainly the idea that was being tentatively floated in some newspapers, that the Government could exploit Mr Blair's increased popularity to hold and win a quick referendum on the euro, is a non-starter. There has been no move of public opinion in favour of the euro over the past few months (as both our Schroder Salomon Smith Barney series of polls and our recent State of Britain poll for the FT confirm), and the international situation around the Iraq war has surely made more difficult rather than easier the task of selling the idea. More than half the public named France, unprompted, as Britain's least reliable ally, and fewer think that Europe rather than America or the Commonwealth is most important to Britain than at any time since the mid-1980s.
Charles Kennedy's anti-war stance, though popular with his party's core supporters, may have damaged his fringe support among Tory waverers - all the polls have agreed in finding a slight dip in Lib Dem support over the last few weeks, and satisfaction with his leadership (39% last month, 40% this) are his lowest since the general election.
In the 1980s, two measures seemed to coincide with the rise in suicide in prison. Until about 1986, the prison record of each prisoner who had ever attempted suicide was marked with a large red ‘F’ (I can’t find out what the F stood for) so that the prison officers automatically knew who was vulnerable and could keep a special eye on them. For some reason, this simple system was stopped and was replaced a few years later by a form of much greater complexity for those deemed to be actively suicidal. The change represented the bureaucrat’s view that elaborate formal ways of dealing with a problem are always superior to simple informal ones. In a sense, this is true: they always give bureaucrats more work to do.
Until the 1980s, when the suicide rate rose, it was an offence in prison to harm yourself or to make a suicidal gesture. Unless the doctor considered that you had a bona fide illness that led you to act in this fashion, you were charged with wasting medical time, and lost remission. The abolition of this harsh-sounding regulation was replaced by a more ‘caring’ attitude, and conferred certain advantages in prison upon those who claimed to be suicidal, which resulted — as any sensible person would have expected — in a large increase in acts of self-harm, of which there are now at least 20,000 per year in our prisons. But the abolition of punishment for self-harm achieved its most important end: the gratification of the reformers’ narcissistic urge to feel humane.
The suicidal are now rewarded with various privileges that can include better material conditions, admission to the hospital wing (where the regime is easier), daily visits from nurses and ‘listeners’ (prisoners deputed to allow fellow-prisoners to air their problems), increased medication irrespective of whether it is strictly indicated, and so forth. But in order to prove their bona fides as potential suicides, and to preserve their privileges, some prisoners feel obliged eventually to make a serious gesture. I have known prisoners who have been laughing and joking companionably with their fellow-prisoners attempt to hang themselves a few minutes later if told that their status as suicide risks was being removed. And such gestures sometimes go wrong.
Short sentences are another cause of suicide: 60 per cent of suicides occur within three months of arrival in prison, so subjecting young career criminals to repeated and demonstrably ineffectual short sentences is also to subject them to repeated periods of greatest risk.
Power is being contested on every corner, between Shia moderates and extremists. It is being fought for by umpteen Kurdish parties, Assyrian parties, secular parties. Of course there was something absurd about the conference organised by the Americans, the endless jabbering of groupuscules under a mural of a semi-naked Saddam repelling American jet bombers. There was a priceless moment when Mr Feisal Ishtarabi could not remember whether his party was called the Iraqi Independent Democratic party or the Iraqi Democratic Independent party. But does it matter?
There was also something magnificent about the process. It was a bazaar, a souk, in something the Iraqis have not been able to trade for 30 years. It was a free market in politicians. In a word, it was democracy. Sooner or later there will be elections in Iraq; and no, funnily enough, most people do not think that the Shiite extremists will sweep the country, or that government will be handed over to Tehran. There will be no more torture victims, like the man who showed me the ivory-white sliced cartilage of his ear, cut off by Saddam to punish him for deserting from the army, or the stumbling old man who claimed his three sons had all been killed by the Baathists.
Under the Douglas/Richardson reforms New Zealand became the only developed country to do away with farm support. They gave New Zealand one of the developed world's flattest tax structures, halving the top rate of tax to 33 per cent from 66 per cent. Government spending was brought under tight control and welfare system restructured to encourage job-seeking.
As in other countries that experience free-market reform movements, the success of the reforms changed the nature of political debate in New Zealand. And as in other countries, the parties that advocated reforms lost the plot and enabled a reinvigorated and reformed left to become electable again.
The broad-brush lessons for the New Zealand reforms as the two veteran finance ministers noted are twofold: move quickly (the bureaucracy will slow you down in any case) and embrace "quality" reforms. As Roger Douglas warned, what kills radical change is uncertainty. "The Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to be the Minister for Reform," Ms. Richardson told me after the breakfast. That of course is precisely the opposite of the role that Gordon Brown has carved out at Treasury.
Britain's Conservatives may have once been naturals to take up this challenge, but not today. The Party is no longer for serious tax cuts, sanctions Labour's spending on health care and other sectors and has been most visible in the run-up to this week's election criticizing the government's asylum policy. When the party makes headlines, it is usually for reports of in-fighting or looming leadership challenges.
That leaves the Liberal Democrats, which trail the Tories by only six or seven points in the polls. And surprisingly, this is where Ms. Richardson and Mr. Douglas said their ideas received the warmest reception. Of course, that may be because they met the most interesting of the Liberal Democrats -- a group of young forward-thinking MPs who call themselves Liberal Future and who lean more toward classically liberal ideas than the warmed over socialism that has been the party's more recent hallmark.
The country's best music colleges are losing huge sums of public money because of their failure to admit enough working-class students to satisfy the Government. Under a new funding system introduced this year, they have been told to give about 10 per cent of their places to students from poor areas, or face financial penalties.
The problem for the colleges is that in the poorer parts of the state sector, music is not taught nearly well enough, or early enough, to produce the virtuosi of the future. A pupil who has not been properly taught in early childhood stands very little chance of achieving musical excellence in later life. So the colleges now find themselves faced with the choice of losing public money or admitting students who will not be able to benefit fully from their courses. This is not only bad for music students, but for all music-lovers. It is like insisting that 10 per cent of the England football team should be drawn from the third division.
How many times must we say it, before the Government gets the message? The solution to the crisis in Britain's education system is not to penalise the good schools and colleges, but to improve the bad ones.
What are the potential new insights from a theory like this? It may help us understand the childhood neurological conditions of autism and Asperger syndrome, which appear to be an extreme of the male brain. Such individuals may have impairments in empathising alongside normal or even talented systemising. The theory also predicts the existence of the mirror-image of autism or Asperger syndrome, namely, the extreme female brain. Science has not even begun to investigate what such people are like, but we know they must have impairments in systemising, alongside normal or even talented empathising. Finally, the theory delineates two key dimensions of individual differences - empathising and systemising - that exist among any group of children, so that parents and educators can become more tolerant of difference.
"You have a huge powerful and very well organized bloc that doesn't want any country criticized, opposes U.N. human rights monitoring and wants to weaken the office of the U.N. high commissioner for human rights," Joanna Weschler of Human Rights Watch told Reuters.
"It's almost a rule now. You get criticized by the commission or you might be, so you get a seat on the commission and you vote as a bloc against criticism," Weschler said.
Do you think it is acceptable or unacceptable for householders to use potentially deadly force to protect their property against intruders?
Unacceptable 32% ...
There is strong support for householders using potentially deadly force to protect property against intruders. The results indicate a considerable level of support for the view that criminals forfeit certain rights when illegally entering a property.
If the law were changed to allow possession of registered handguns, would you be tempted to carry a gun for protection?
No 78% ...
Almost a quarter of Britons would be tempted to carry a gun for the purpose of self-protection if the laws were changed. There are striking differences on the basis of region, with only 7 per cent of Londoners tempted to carry a gun, compared to 55 per cent of those living in Yorkshire/Humberside, and 45 per cent of those living in the West Midlands. The lower take-up rate in London may be a reflection of the relatively lesser fear of crime exhibited by Londoners. Men are more likely to consider carrying a gun, although the differences between the sexes is not as great as might have been anticipated (23 per cent of men versus 20 per cent of women).
Do you support or oppose the introduction of private police forces and security groups to assist the police?
Oppose 36% ...
As for introducing private police forces, while Britons across the board support the move, there are some considerable differences. Women are significantly more in favour (73 per cent versus 55 per cent of men) and the 16- to 24-year-olds are far more likely than any other age group to support the proposal (83 per cent).
Do you believe that the death penalty should be re-introduced in Britain for certain crimes?
Yes 67% No 33%
Which of the following crimes do you think should be punished with the death penalty? (Asked of all those who support the re-introduction of the death penalty for certain crimes)
Drug dealing 13%
Support for the death penalty is strongest among those aged 65+ (86 per cent) and lowest among those aged 25-34 (55 per cent). Those who have been a victim of crime are more likely to support capital punishment, but the most striking differences in attitudes are regional ones. Ninety-four per cent of those living in the West Midlands support the re-introduction of the death penalty, compared to just 34 per cent of Londoners. Indeed, Londoners appear out of step with the rest of the nation on this issue - London is the only region where capital punishment is opposed by the majority.
Do you believe a life sentence should always mean life imprisonment, ie prison for the rest of your life?
Would you support or oppose the introduction of a 'three strikes and you're out' scheme whereby offenders automatically receive a prison sentence if they are convicted of any three crimes?
A majority of every group within society believe life should mean life, with the exception of Londoners, who again demonstrate that they are a breed apart. [Emphasis added]
Despite our prison population already being at record numbers, a large majority of Britons (80 per cent) would support the introduction of an American-style 'three strikes and you're out' scheme. There is broad-based support for this proposal, although Britons at the lower end of the social scale are significantly more likely to support the proposal.
Do you believe that under-18s charged with serious crimes such as murder should be prosecuted as adults?
No 18% ...
All age groups, including the 16- to 24-year-olds, believe that under-18s charged with serious crimes should be prosecuted as adults.