England's Sword 2.0

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Iain's Moved


Head over now to my new, Movable Type-powered web log here. My vanity site, as mentioned below, is iainmurray.org.

Goodbye, Blogger. It's been a bumpy ride, but not without its pleasures.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Go Away!!!


If this ever gets published, head over now to my new, Movable Type-powered web log here. My vanity site, as mentioned below, is iainmurray.org.

Goodbye, Blogger. It's been a bumpy ride, but not without its pleasures.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Site Transition


I've been working on my transition to Movable Type, but have hit a bit of a snag. As well as a new blog, I hope to have Iain Murray's Online Home as an umbrella site, and have now got the home page up and running (the other pages are currently dummies), but there's a chance it will get overwritten by the test MT blog...

Which all helps explain the lack of posts this weekend. I hope to have an overview of the weekend's reaction to Blair's constitutional shambles tomorrow evening, which is shaping up to have been a spectacular own goal. And, who knows, I might even have the new blog up and running by then, too. My blog benefactor, Dean Esmay, has been a great help so far and I'm sure we can get this last snag overcome soon.

Of course, Blogger have finally upgraded me to New Blogger, and it happened without a hitch. Too little, too late?

Friday, June 13, 2003

Announcement


Thanks to Dean Esmay, I will soon be moving to a new Movable Type blog, once I can work out what the hack I'm doing. For instance, I can't get anything to show up on my new site yet... but I'm sure everything will work itself out soon. Watch this space!

Smoke and Mirrors in Euroland


So what's the deal here? First, the European Central Bank slashes its eurozone growth forecasts. That can't be good. Then France and Germany make a backroom deal to protect their own interests rather than the greater European community.

Clearly this is becoming less of a community and more of a back-alley attempt at empire by the franco-german alliance. Why don't the two of them just unify (maybe throw in Belgium 'cause they are clearly huge suck-ups) and let the rest of Europe thrive on its own without these dinosaurs?

Disgusting



That Britain allows burglers to sue the people they attempted to steal from is revolting. It is a stain on an otherwise great country.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Swing Time


Well this guy seems to be on the right track. He's already done something I'd planned for here (the comparison between the US and EU constitutions). Check him out.

Hard day


Well, Kris and I had some very good news tonight, so we went out to celebrate (thank you, by the way, to the reader who first enabled us to get a babysitter some weeks ago, which has emboldened us!)

I also had lunch today with a former Australian Minister. If you know anything about that adjective-noun combination, you'll realise it was a day-defining experience already.

In the meantime, I managed to post two lengthy items over at Eugene's palace. One deals with Tony Blair's fortunes. The other is a look at where the climate change debate stands currently, which I'm refining further elsewhere. There are some interesting rejoinders in the comments section to this post below, which I urge interested parties to read.

I hope to have lots more up at Volokh.com tomorrow. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Quoted!


The elegant and estimable John O'Sullivan quotes me in his article U.S. discovering that not everyone loves a winner:

As Iain Murray of the Competitive Enterprise Institute points out, this division itself rests on a deeper civilizational distinction: "This is perhaps the clearest indication that the world is divided between what some are terming the "Anglosphere" . . . and a group of failed empires--France, Germany, Russia, Islam--that resent American military and economic dominance." With the Muslim world sunk in hostility to the United States and Western Europe declaring its neutrality, Washington may find itself turning increasingly to its Anglosphere allies.

The quote is from a UPI article I wrote not currently available on the web, as far as I know, which I will reproduce or link to when I can. John's full article, on the Pew Poll, is, as ever, worth reading. John goes on to mention the, erm, elephant in the living room, India:

It is curious and irritating, therefore, that the Pew survey does not include the largest English-speaking country in the world, namely India. Yet even as France and Germany are moving away from a close relationship with the United States, India is establishing a new strategic alliance with Washington. As my colleagues in UPI, Martin Walker and Derk Kinnane-Roelofsma, have revealed in the last few weeks, Indian officials have been meeting with senior Pentagon figures to discuss the establishment of an "Asian NATO" that might eventually expand to include Singapore, Australia and Japan.

India's Deputy Prime Minister, Lal Krishna Advani, is currently in Washington and is expected to meet every senior administration figure, not excluding President Bush, to carry these discussions further. Even if the large prize of an "Asian NATO" is some way off, it is plain that a de facto U.S.-India strategic partnership already exists.

That partnership will be carried on in the English language. If military cooperation with the Aussies or Singapore comes about in due course, they speak the lingo too. The United States is linked to its main allies in both Europe and Asia by cultural ties that underpin a common strategic interest. A new, and unexpected, world order is taking shape--and world opinion will have to adapt to it.

I've been saying for some years that this century may be the Indian Century. At the moment, I think they're heading the right way to acheive that.

Guest-blogging tomorrow


I've been asked by Eugene to make another appearence as a co-conspirator at The Volokh Conspiracy tomorrow and Friday. I'll be posting there throughout the day on various legal, regulatory and scientific matters, but shall definitely be back here tomorrow night ranting about the EU, Blair, the shocking state of politics today and all the other stuff I tend to obsess on here.

Sorry about the lack of posts so far today. I was at a very interesting conference for most of the day and so was unable to gather material, and then a tremendous thunderstorm kept the computer off for most of this evening.

Smells Like Evolution


I'm wondering if someone can answer this for me. Watching the Wiggles with Helen, it suddenly occurred to me that the scent of freshly baked bread could be an example of recent human evolution. Hear me out. The fresh baked bread smell in most western countries is universally considered a good smell conveying feelings of warmth and comfort. I imagine the smell of cooking tortillas and rice have a similar effect in their respective societies.

I would argue that this positive emotional response to such scents is an example of the impact of agriculture on human evolution. Let's face it, bread is rarely baked in the home any more. And yet, the smell still evokes immediate positive emotions. What is the connection but that since the rise of agriculture, humans have associated the smell of baking bread with survival, home, and food?

Our daily bread (rice/tortillas) may have forged a connection between a very specific smell and a general positive emotion. Could this be an example of human evolution? What do ya'll think?

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

RKBA UK III


At least, I think it's my third post with that title. Anyway, gun rights historian and blogger Clayton Cramer had a great analysis of the state of English law on the subject of armed self-defense in the home on an e-mail list, which he has graciously allowed me to post here:

Unfortunately, British law, at least from what I have read about how the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861 was written and is interpreted by the courts, doesn't give any ... benefit to the resident. As the law has practically been used (and as has happened in the Martin case), the law establishes a level playing field between an intruder and his victim with respect to use of deadly force. You can use a gun against an intruder if he has a gun, and gives you reason to believe that he is going to use it against you.

I happen to think this is an extraordinarily stupid law. If everyone was equally strong, in equally good health, criminals didn't rely on unfair advantages (like a concealed handgun or knife), and didn't engage in unsporting behavior like multiple intruders (as was the case with Martin), this sort of Marquis of Queensberry rules approach might be mildly supportable in an academic "Wouldn't the world be wonderful if we could all get along?" sort of way. The problem is that Offences Against The Person Act was written when Britons, even criminals, seemed to operate on a more civilized level.

I think this is right, even if there's room for quibbling at the margins about what the law does and doesn't allow. Remember that British police have never been routinely armed with anything other than a truncheon. The reason for that must surely be that they expected villains to give up and come quietly, and presumably those expectations used to be met regularly. On a side note, I remember reading somewhere about how policemen giving chase to some particularly ruthless (for the time) armed criminals in Tottenham in the Edwardian era borrowed firearms from passers-by to defend themselves. Ah yes, the Edwardian era. Just like Dodge City, wasn't it?

Anyway, Clayton also has a useful survey of the reasons why firearms restrictions were imposed on Britons in the first place. It wasn't because of gunplay in the streets. The title of the piece might give you a clue -- Fear and Loathing in Whitehall: Bolshevism and the Firearms Act of 1920. I recommend it if you haven't looked at this subject before.

Psychic Prison


Another friend, Eli Lehrer, has an excellent review of a new book by Yale's James Q. Whitman. Whitman has a thesis for why Europeans and Americans treat their prisoners differently:

Over time, Whitman believes, status-conscious France and Germany began to treat nearly all criminals in the dignified manner once reserved for members of the nobility and political prisoners. America, disdainful of such status distinctions since the Revolution, came to treat everyone in the low-status manner befitting peasants and common criminals. The United States, he argues, moved to one-size-fits-all vengeance while Europe moved towards individualized, nurturing justice. American justice thus "tends not to treat offenders with respect"--which puts the nation at peril through its indifference to suffering.

A nice theory, Eli suggests, but what about reality? Eli, who is a genuine expert in these matters, takes a look at comparative crime rates and other useful indicators. He then looks at the practice in prisons today.

Whitman has visited German prisons and read German guard-training manuals, but he doesn't appear to have done the same in the United States--and so he makes much out of European training-manual provisions and legal precedents requiring respectful treatment of prisoners, but he seems unaware that similar provisions also exist in the United States. French prisons, as Whitman concedes, are in some ways worse than their American counterparts. While he makes much of policies allowing French prisoners to wear their own clothes and have other petty comforts, he really doesn't make a convincing case that Europeans as a whole are much nicer to prisoners than Americans overall. They simply let them out of prison more quickly and suffer higher crime rates as a result. More disturbingly, Whitman's book has a strangely anti-democratic subtext. Whitman has many kind words for unelected European bureaucrats who run prison systems and, in one absurd passage, compares America's long prison sentences to Nazi torch-light rallies because both "lend themselves naturally to mobilizing mass support."

My first prison study for Civitas, available in PDF form via their website, takes a look at current approaches to the rehabilitation of offenders in the US. I'd venture to suggest that the best American programs put anything tried in Europe in the shade.

Income Inequality: Not What You Think


Very interesting study mentioned by the Dallas based think tank NCPA - Overcoming Wage Inequality. It seems that, despite increasing earnings inequality, this does not mean that some people are doomed to be poor while others are sat on great piles of cash forever. Here's how the NCPA summarizes the study, which you can get in PDF format by following the link:

One way to think about mobility is to array wage earners into fifths, ranging from the lowest income quintile to the highest quintile. Mobility is then measured by the movement among the quintiles over time. Even after a single year, there is considerable movement:

* After one year, about one-third of the workers who were in the bottom income quintile move to a higher quintile; and about one-quarter who were in the top quintile move to a lower one.
* Of those who were originally in the intermediate three quintiles, about half move to another quintile.

There is even more movement over longer periods. Comparing the wages of workers of the same age over a 15-year time period:

* The percent of workers who remained in the same quintile after one year was 60 percent.
* The percent remaining in the same quintile fell to 43 percent after five years, to 33 percent after 10 years, and to 29 percent after 15 years.

These results also point to the importance of knowledge and skill, as measured by education and experience, in facilitating economic mobility. Individuals who have responded to the incentives implicit in the increased earnings inequality have experienced the greatest mobility. The implication is that public policies providing individuals and their families greater freedom and opportunity to invest in themselves and their children will have the greatest positive impact on economic success.

The next time you hear someone spout that tired old cliche, "the rich get richer while the poor get poorer," remember this.

Blair: Labour's Best Weapon?


Roger does double duty in his analysis Blair Two Years On. Again, interesting reading. MORI's likely voters survey puts Labour on 39 percent, the Tories on 31 percent and the Lib Dems on 22 percent. This can't be good news for Conservative Central Office.

However, there's one question I want to see answered in a poll. It's "How would you vote if Gordon Brown were Labour leader?". Given that Blair's approval rate is 38%, but his government's is 30%, I'd say a sizeable proportion of that lead is down to Blair's continuing dominance of the center ground of British politics. Without Blair, I think Labour would be in big trouble. Perhaps some loyal Blairites might start taking soundings about the possibility of such a poll, hmm?

God's Work


My friend Roger Mortimore has a fascinating MORI commentary column looking at how Britain has changed since 1950. The answer is a lot in some areas, surprisingly little in others. Read the whole thing, but this struck me as particularly interesting:

Perhaps going hand in hand with the decline of a structured society is the erosion of the religious foundations on which it was once built. One tends to suppose that in the 1950s, Britain was predominantly a church-going (and of course Christian) society, whereas this is no longer the case. In fact, nominal church membership has not fallen precipitately: in 1951 the estimated baptised membership of the Church of England was 624 for every 1,000 in the population; by 1996, it was still 511. [Source: Butler & Butler, "Twentieth Century British Political Facts".] In the 2001 census (the first to include a question on religion), 72% identified themselves as Christians and a further 5% as belonging to other religions - although many of these can be only nominal adherents, since when we asked in a 2000 survey only 62% of the adult public said they believed in God. (The census figure, it should be noted, includes children as well as adults.) Churchgoing is much lower than theoretical adherence to a religion, of course: in 1957, only 14% of adults said they had been to church on the previous (February) Sunday. By 1993, attendance had fallen to the extent that only 18% said that they ever went to church on a Sunday, but it was clearly a minority activity even at the time of the coronation.

But what has certainly changed is that there is more acceptance of "new age" spiritualism, and other supernatural phenomena, as well as scepticism about organised religion. One 1999 MORI Social Values question gets at this trend quite neatly: 65% of the public agree that "Personal spiritual experience is more important to me than belonging to a church". This leads to what some would describe as a more credulous society. For example, in January 1950, only 10% of the public told Gallup they believed in ghosts, and just 2% thought they had seen one. By 1998 we found that 40% now said they believed in ghosts, and 15% that they had "personal experience" of ghosts; 6% of the public, indeed, said they had based a decision on their belief in ghosts. In 1951, only 7% of the public said they believed in foretelling the future by cards and 6% by stars; in 1998, 18% of the public said they believed in fortune telling or tarot, and 38% in astrology (though we didn't ask specifically about using it to foretell the future).

In other words, the people of Britain want to be religious. The Church however (see my arguments here passim) has abrogated its role as instructor of the nation, preferring to talk about nuclear weapons and gay marriages, and the other Christian churches have seen fit to follow its lead, amazingly, which has of course left the door open for spiritualist looniness.

What all this means for Niall Ferguson's theory that European economic decline has been caused by religious decline, I don't know, but I think it weakens them. One correspondent mentioned that there is probably a clearer correlation between the rise of the welfare state and the decline in religion (if the State helps you out, why worry about God?) than anything Ferguson worries about. I'm inclined to agree. It would also explain why, given Britain's relatively early welfare state, church-going was so low in the 50s, as Roger helpfully reminds us.

Looking at the stars, clearly from the gutter


Remember the book and film "Longitude" and how John Harrison was frustrated at every turn by a rival scientist with foolish ideas who was eventually appointed Astronomer Royal, using which position he blocked Harrison's proper reward? Well, it looks like one of his successors is following in his footsteps.

The cosmologist ... says the most frightening risks are probably man-made.

"A hundred years ago, the nuclear threat wasn't even predicted ... but that threat still hasn't gone away," he said.

The arms race, after all, was fueled by science, and the field has a responsibility to inform a wide public of the risks in deciding how to apply scientific breakthroughs, he added.

"For the first time ever, human nature itself isn't fixed. Biotech drugs and genetic engineering are empowering individuals more than ever before," Rees said.

With rapidly advancing DNA technology, "even a single person could cause a disaster," Rees warned, ... Thousands of people have the ability to engineer viruses and bacteria to cause deadly plagues. Even if one such "weirdo" didn't kill many people, that type of biological terrorism would profoundly change daily life, the scientist warned.

Nanotechnology -- the subject of a recent Michael Crichton thriller about the havoc caused by runaway microscopic machines -- are also a potent threat, he said.

If the field advances far enough, rogue self-replicating nanotechnology machines -- feeding on organic material and spreading like pollen -- could devastate a continent within a few days, Rees said.

The dangers of global warming are also addressed in the book, subtitled "A scientist's warning: How terror, error, and environmental disaster threaten humankind's future in this century -- on Earth and beyond."

Rees does not discount the possibility of disaster caused by scientific experiments involving particle accelerators. "Perhaps a black hole could form, and then suck in everything around it," he cautions.

And there's always the chance that this idiot could spontaneously combust, killing several Guardian reporters nearby. The office of Astronomer Royal should emphatically not be used to terrify people into believing that science is a bad thing, yet this is precisely what he's doing here.

So what does the Silly Asstronomer Royal think should be done?

The British scientist calls for better regulation and inspection of sensitive data and experiments.

"We need to keep track of those who have potentially lethal knowledge," Rees said.

That's it! Let's nationalize all science for the public good, and while we're at it, let's make sure we keep the dangerous intellectuals in camps. Hmmm. What could we call them? Gulags, perhaps?

Walker's Crisp Analysis


Martin Walker's National Review Online article today points out something that needs to be looked at closely:

... the striking characteristic of the Bush administration on Europe, as France and Germany explore an openly anti-American policy, is that outside the Pentagon there is no policy. Congress holds no hearings. Other than finally threatening legal action against the EU's scientifically unjustified barriers against genetically modified U.S. food exports, the U.S. Trade Representative explores no other options. When the Estonians are ordered by Brussels to start raising their tariffs on American goods as a condition of joining the EU, Washington is silent.

Maybe they are simply discouraged. Twice in the 1990s then-U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor and his EU counterpart, Leon Brittain, negotiated a Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement. Each time, the French vetoed it. Today, the Doha Round of world-trade liberalization is endangered by the EU's difficulty in scrapping its protectionist farm policies in the teeth of French vetoes. ...

Neither Congress and the administration has yet paid much attention to the EU convention, chaired by former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, that is drafting a new European constitution. And yet in Giscard's proposals for a strong EU presidency, a common foreign and defense policy and an increasingly uniform judicial system, the implications for U.S. interests are serious.

This is true. The Pentagon knows who its friends and enemies are. No-one else is willing to face the unpleasant truth. Yet Walker's suggested solutions strike me as quite reasonable:

The Bush administration would have allies all across Europe and the rest of the world if they openly singled out France for confrontation. The U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve would also have support is they pressed the question why the European Central Bank and the eurozone economy are stagnating and helping bring down the wider global economy. And it's odd that so few people in the U.S. media or politics wonder why not.

The U.S. Congress might find it useful to explore Kissinger's idea of joint hearings with the European Parliament into issues like farm-trade obstructionism. The price they might have to pay could be other contentious hearings on the Kyoto Protocol and global warming, or on U.S. policies in the Middle East. Fine. Bring it on. Americans have arguments here that too few Europeans have heard.

Those last points are important. My recent work on global warming tells me quite how far the science has moved on since Kyoto, and it ain't in the direction the Europeans think it has. And we all know how little Europe hears of the moderate and/or Israeli views on the Middle East. As Martin says, bring it on.

Crying Wolf


The often excellent Martin Wolf departs from the Financial Times' "Euro NOW!" party line in his analysis of the Euro decision. There's some very pretty graphs, and the models of what might have happened if we'd joined the Euro/EMU back in 1999 are not encouraging for Euro enthusiasts. Yet, in the end, Wolf recognizes that this is a political, not an economic matter:

Where does this leave us? In limbo, is the answer. That is also where we are likely to remain for some time. I, for one, think that is the right decision for a country as sceptical as the UK about the implications of the currency union. And if you doubt this scepticism, take a look at how the government has approached this decision. It is because of British doubts that it has stressed the need for a clear and unambiguous assessment only of the economics. Not so much through its substance as through its style, this entire exercise shows that the British are not ready for membership.

That's something the FT/WSJ internationalist types need to hear.

Monday, June 09, 2003

Holier than thou?


Well, following Tim Blair's example I took the how dodgy are you? test (dodgy being a British euphemism for villainous) and, erm, got the following result:

In the clear
You can stand up straight and walk tall, no one's after you, unless they're trying to nick something from you! It's good to behave 100% correctly and to the letter of the law, though it's hardly life on the edge…

Based on your answers, we have calculated the maximum penalty for your crimes*:

Years in prison: 0 Potential fine: £0

As I said on Tim's site, I'm now looking around for some stones that I can be the first to cast...

Don't tell Michael Moore!


In Cambodia, the environmentalist groups are going heavily armed. They also are beginning to understand the plight of the native population. I wonder if they'll come back with a healthier respect for gun rights and economic development?

Railroad Tycoons?


Fascinating article by George Trefgarne in the Telegraph about how not to run a railway. The Third Way just doesn't work:

Network Rail is not a joint stock company, but something called a not for profit company. You can say that again. Network Rail made a loss of £290 million in the year to March, and without some fancy accounting, it would have been much worse.

The Government has effectively had to underwrite Network Rail's £21 billion of debts (although yet more financial engineering has kept this mighty sum off the Treasury's books). Driven by cries about safety, spending is out of control and the company will swallow £12 billion in subsidy by 2006.

Despite burning through all this money, the Network Rail locomotive has allowed delays to rise nine per cent in the past year. A fare increase for passengers is imminent. Costs are so high and service levels so poor that one of its biggest customers, the Royal Mail, is abandoning mail trains after 170 years.

Instead of shareholders, Network Rail has 116 members, including busybodies from the Crime Concern Trust, the Royal Association for Disability & Rehabilitation, trade unions, and the Cyclist's Touring Club. They are entirely unaccountable. Standards of corporate governance and disclosure are extremely poor.

The members' role has a contradiction at the heart of it. We are told they have "similar rights to those of shareholders in a public company", yet "no financial or economic interest" in whether Network works.

Ah, the stakeholder society at, erm, work...

Network Rail is a sort of Third Way on wheels. Tom Winsor, the rail regulator, believes it is a nonsense. He says a company with no shareholders is hard to incentivise. If he fined Railtrack for poor performance, it came out of shareholders' pockets.

But Network Rail has no shareholders, so just passes a fine on to the taxpayer or passengers in higher costs. "Shareholders with money at stake," said Winsor, "are far more likely to be responsive than public interest members.''

Trefgarne begins his article by telling how the joint stock company worked so well for so many years that Labour just had to improve on it by adding regulations, diktats and codes. Interestingly, that's precisely what regulatory bodies are trying to achieve over here in many other areas than just transport. Funny how "stakeholders" can achieve through agencies what lobby groups can't through Congress.

The Bownian Version


I have to say I was distinctly unimpressed by Gordon Brown's announcement that Her Majesty's Treasury doesn't think the Euro will be good for Britain -- yet. In particular, I was annoyed by the full steam ahead annoucement that he will order the supposedly independent Bank of England about:

He said the Bank of England would be told to change the current inflation target of 2.5%, and that a new Europe-wide measure of inflation would be used.

So much for the most widely-praised decision of his Chancellorship. In any event, I think the Telegraph summed up Gordo's stance the best:

Supporters of the euro have, by and large, accepted these facts of life. They agree, reluctantly, that Britain would at present be foolish to contract out its interest rates to Frankfurt. But they want the Government to bring about economic convergence. Convergence, one wonders, with what? With Euro-land's unemployment rate? With its burdensome regulations? With its high taxes?

If so, Gordon Brown is their man. One by one, the Chancellor has been ironing out the things that used to make Britain different from its neighbours, joining the social chapter, buying euros and, above all, raising taxes.

Significantly, his new taxes have been in areas where Britain used to enjoy a competitive edge over the rest of Europe. We had many more private pensions, so he taxed them. We had a higher rate of home ownership, so he raised stamp duty to continental levels. Now he has brought social security levies into line with the EU through his swingeing rise in National Insurance. How Mr Brown has come to be thought of as a eurosceptic is one of the wonders of our age.

I've always said Brown was untrustworthy of Euroskeptic support. This pronouncement underlines why.

The Telegraph also puts forward a powerful case for five real tests of economic performance for Britain:

1. Higher productivity. Britain has just slipped back into fifth place among the world's economies, behind France. Mr Brown's propensity to meddle brought a halt to the extraordinary surge in productivity which Britain enjoyed until 1997. His finicky schemes have created perverse incentives in the private sector, and raised costs for businesses.

2. Lower taxes. (And, equally important, simpler taxes.) Taxes are rising faster in Britain than in any other industrialised nation. The sheer complexity of the system is quite as harmful as the overall burden.

3. Public service reform. If nothing else, Labour has done us a favour by proving beyond any doubt that spending more on the public services does not necessarily improve them.

4. Fewer regulations. No government has imposed so many new rules on our businesses. A recent survey by the British Chamber of Commerce showed, with pretty convincing methodology, that the total cost of these regulations has been at least £20 billion since Labour came to power.

5. A balanced budget. At present, Mr Brown aims to keep the debt-to-GDP ratio steady over the economic cycle. This means, preposterously, that when the economy is growing, he aims to borrow more. A better target would be no net borrowing over the cycle.

Meeting these tests, of course, would make us less rather than more like the rest of the EU. Yet they would make Britain a wealthier country. There you have Labour's problem.

I think this makes a better Tory manifesto than Kelvin Mackenzie's...

Meanwhile, what do they think in Euroland? I find it particularly interesting that even the BBC correspondents find that Europeans just can't be bothered...

The European Central Bank President, Wim Duisenberg, put it thus: "I know why (Britain should join). I just don't know when"...

While Italians have accepted their new currency, and the loss of the lira, it has been less easy to accept the huge rise in prices that came with it.

They welcome the newfound freedom to travel without changing money, but mention the euro, and you will instantly be told that prices have doubled, yet wages have not.

For this reason, Britain's reluctance to join doesn't surprise people in Rome. ...

... few [Spaniards] feel passionately enough about the issue of the single currency to hold a grudge if Britain chooses not to join.

"If they want to keep the pound that's fine by me too," says Iguacelle Mateus, a young woman who lives and works in Madrid. ...

In this enthusiastically pro-European nation, Irish people know full well that the British have a pretty different take on Europe.

And the French?

Alain, a 50-year old doctor, comments: "I wonder sometimes whose side the British are on - Europe's or America's. I'd like Britain to join the euro, but the British will have to decide first which is more important to them." ...

Only one person disagreed - Sybille, a 25-year old Parisian student. She said that by siding with America on Iraq, Britain had ruled itself out of Europe, and did not deserve to participate in the single currency.

Actually, I happen to agree with Sybille. We don't deserve it. Naughty old us. Right, we'll be off then...

Sunday, June 08, 2003

Bloggers: America's Tabloids?


Interesting side-note in the Times article attributing Howell Raines' downfall to bloggers:

The “screw-ups” were obsessively tracked by bloggers. Like British tabloid newspapers in hot pursuit of a wounded politician, they never gave up on their quarry.

Interesting. The US, of course, has no equivalent to the attack-dogs of British political journalism. Could it be that blogs are filling that ecological niche? Interesting also that they should go after the media first, an indication if I ever saw one of the Fourth Estate's arrogance and vulnerability.

I was, however, disappointed by this comment:

Nevertheless, the clearest example of the bloggers’ ability to take scalps was the forced resignation of Trent Lott, the Republican Senate leader, after he was vilified for making a racist remark at a southern politician’s 100th birthday celebration last year.

Only when left-wing bloggers began to make a fuss did newspapers such as The New York Times begin to notice that anything was amiss. Eventually Lott was shunned by the left and the right, including Bush.

Pardon me, but wasn't it the "right-wing" and libertarian-leaning blogs that made the early running and unsettled the Republican Party, thereby enabling this to be a nonpartisan issue? Of course the Times and the rest didn't notice until the leftists got involved, but even so...

Red Roses


I'd like to agree with other people's endorsements of Oliver Kamm's new blog. He is, apparently, a former Chair of the Oxford University Labour Club. Quite a few people who occupied that position during my time are now MPs. Interestingly, none of the people who occupied the Presidency of the Oxford University Conservative Association are, although that should change at the next election.

Blair and WMDs: part I


Jst a quick post to say what I thought of Tony Blair's performance in Prime Minister's Question Time (it's broadcast on the excellent C-SPAN cable channel over here at 9pm on Sundays). It was a robust performance, I thought, stating a coherent position articulately. The Joint Intelligence Committee agreed with everything he and other Ministers said, there were no orders to "sex up" the documents, no evidence to the contrary has been produced bar some unattributed remarks from down the food-chain in the intelligence service and, generally, the accusers don't know what they're talking about. I think I believe him.

The trouble is, as IDS said, the country at large does not. The accusation that the Government lied about WMDs has stuck, because it fits in with a pattern of mendacity, spin and half-truths that the people have associated with Labour. Interestingly, Tony was happy to use his own version during PMQs -- the lie that the Tories will impose spending cuts of 20% across the board, something that the public believes because it fits with the pattern it accepts of the Tories as hard-hearted stealers of baby milk (this goes all the way back to Mrs Thatcher's time as Education Secretary).

Assuming that Brown's economic train goes off the rails some time in the next couple of years, leading Labour to lose its reputation for economic competence, it seems clear to me that the next election will be fought between these two negative images (the Liberal Democrats, of course, are seen as lightweight opportunist know-nothings). And people complain about negative campaigning in the US...

I hope to have more to say on what I think about the whole WMD business tomorrow.

Hiatus


Well, given that I'm interning at the National Economic Council, the rules of the road require that I do not take part in any journalism. Whilst I am in withdrawal, I should explain my hiatus.. I'll be back in a few months.