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.

Saturday, June 07, 2003

Museum Update


Even the BBC is now reporting that Baghdad's archaeological treasures are 'mostly intact'. The total number of artefacts missing is now down from 170,000 to 3,000, 47 of them important (in the great scheme of things). Most of the artefacts were stored off-site. Now that number is still far too high, but it shows that if the US army had been stationed at the museum earlier, it's likely that all they would have been protecting was documents. Important in themselves, but not worth soldiers' lives being endangered. My ancient historian training overcame my skeptical training when I castigated the general staff for not taking better care of the museum, and for that I apologize.

Meanwhile, they have also found 39,000 manuscripts from the Saddam House of Manuscripts, which I believe (I may be wrong -- there are several different collections) had been desribed as burned. Grateful for clarification.

The New Warsaw Pact


Good news from Poland. The referendum on EU membership there has had a low turnout so far. Failure to achieve the 50% threshold will not quash the proposal, but it will send a powerful message.

Something else that speaks volumes is the identity of someone who voted "Yes." Remember this guy?

One "Yes" voter who raised a few eyebrows was Poland's Soviet-era military dictator, General Wojciech Jaruzelski.

"[Once] I would have said that [Polish EU entry] was science fiction, the theatre of the absurd," the 79-year-old former leader told reporters.

"It's a new reality and you have to take it into account. I took account of it by voting for Poland's entry into the EU."

Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic noted how so many of the Soviet-era rules they repealed after the fall of the Berlin Wall were in the process of being reinstated as part of the accession procedures. I believe Mikhael Gorbachev himself has compared the EU to the Soviet Union.

The question ought to be asked in Beltway circles, "Did we really win the Cold War?"

The Intangibles


An interesting argument below with Guessedworker (please don't roll over - you have me worried) has made me want to post. I'd like to see what ya'll think of this thought of mine regarding the unification of Europe into one "country".

The elitists of the EU beauracracy want to create a "superstate" just like the US but they seem perfectly clueless as to what makes all fifty of the US states one. These elites think it is just a process of merging tangibles. That all they have to do to make a unified Europe is create a single set of tangibles such as one monetary unit, one set of laws, one military, etc. and, ta da, Europe is one. But that's not going to work because the intangibles are more important.

The principal intangible is patriotism. The bond that holds us all together. It is the belief everyone shares that even though you just arrived here, George Washington is your Founding Father. I hate to use this term but it is indoctrination (a good version, but nonetheless). You know, learning about our Founding Fathers, saying the Pledge of Allegiance, singing the national anthemn at every event sporting or otherwise, etc., etc. Every citizen passes a test proving their knowledge of their new country. Every child in the US goes through it or at least did until recently. It is a rite of passage that unites us all. (Oh, and rites of passage are big here in the states too.)

Liberal elites tend to pooh, pooh these acts. They don't understand the importance of patriotism and don't want to assimilate "outsiders". But the common bond of patriotism is vital when you have people from so many different places under one roof. And that is what the EU is supposed to be, right? One big supercountry?

When push comes to shove, Americans believe we are all one people. You mess with one of us, you mess with us all. If the People of Europe don't believe they are one at this same deep reptilian-brain-level as we Americans, then the EU ain't goin' nowhere. Few pro-EU types seem to understand that a sense of european patriotism is vital to a unified Europe. A patriotism based on commonality with each other, not an anti-something else stance. The problem with this for the EU elitists is that it actually takes more time and effort than they are willing to put into the project, let alone having a belief in patriotism. So they are going to hodgepodge the tangibles together and when the Germans and Greeks realize they have nothing in common but some pieces of paper, well then all heck is gonna break loose.

Friday, June 06, 2003

Caput in rectum usque ad faeces


That's the schoolboy Latin translation of the phrase Kris used to describe French philosophe Emmanuel Todd in his interview in Prospect Magazine. (A publication I used to describe as Blairite. Either it, however, has moved to the Left or Blair has moved to the Right because I think he'd roll his eyes at some of the rubbish contained therein these days). I used to subscribe to it -- I even had a letter published in it once -- but cancelled my subscription after realizing how tedious its tone was getting. For some reason, however, a copy dropped through my letterbox this month, which enabled us to read the Todd interview, which is not available for free on the web site.

With good reason, I think. The interview would have been fisked each way to Sunday by every blog to the right of Junius. I'm not going to bother, but I present here edited (not Dowded) highlights, so you can judge what a pompous, arrogant, self-satsfied spouter of idiotic assertions the man is. I have, however, added emphasis to some choice phrases:

MM: ... you speak of the fall of the US, which has just won the war in Iraq. How come?

ET: The war against Iraq was a military absurdity. The US won a victory over a country with a barefoot army which had been bled dry. It demonstrated its military omnipotence in Iraq in order to hide its economic weaknesses. True rivalry will no longer be settled using military force. The real counterbalance to the US is found in Europe, Russia, China and Japan. The main battlefield will be the economic sector. ... Actually, I like the US a great deal. Until recently, it was the most important factor in maintaining international order. But now it is a factor for instability. The industrial core of the US has been hollowed out. The American trade deficit amounts to $435bn a year. The country needs $1.5bn a day in foreign capital. The US is no longer self-sufficient. Europe, with its strength in exports, is. ... The US was the undisputed victor of the 20th century. Now it has difficulty in recognising its own dependence. Hitherto, the Europeans envied the US its standard of living and technological power. This generated a certain modesty. Nowadays the US leads only in military terms. In most spheres the Europeans have overtaken it.

MM: But Europe has been torn apart politically.

ET: Europe's strength is based on economic integration, which is independent of political decisions. Whether governments in eastern Europe like it or not, they are economically tied to Europe and Russia. The only things they can get from America are weapons; America cannot export anything else. The US has created dissidents in "new" Europe, but the latter still depend on "old" Europe and Russia. Turkey realised this and has kept its distance from the US. ... In conjunction with France, there is a core of political renewal independent of the US and with mass popular support. Spain, Britain, Italy and the east Europeans represent the "old" Europe, since they have not yet achieved autonomy. ... I hope that the British will find their way back into Europe. The driving force behind this will be the renewed violence and arrogance of the Americans. The British will realise of their own accord that they belong to Europe's community of values.

MM: What about the war on terror?

ET: The omnipresence of terrorism is a powerful myth, thanks to which the US has assumed the right to crusade around the world, whether in the Philippines, in Yemen or in Iraq. The US wants to keep the world on tenterhooks by means of this permanent state of war. But military methods don't help in the fight against terrorism. Only police and secret service work can help. The terrorist threat could have been minimised in this way since 9/11, but the collective psychosis of the Americans did not allow that. ...
I am a demographer and I'll stick to the facts. Arab and Islamic terrorism is not a relapse of these regions into barbarism, it is the result of a crisis in the modernisation process. All countries go through radical changes as a result of literacy and birth control. Because all the Islamic states have been weakened, there is no great power among them. The terrorism will disappear of its own accord with the end of the demographic revolution.

MM: Does international law have a future?

ET: The majority in the UN was opposed to war in Iraq. In spite of this, the US went ahead and thus violated international law. The UN's role has never been so important. In view of America's destabilising role, one might consider whether the UN security council should move to Europe, perhaps to Switzerland.

MM: Numerous rogue states are members of the UN.

ET: The UN is not a club of democracies but an organisation which tries to solve problems between countries without resorting to war. In recent years there has been enormous progress towards democratisation. This has not been imposed from outside; it is the result of education and the emancipation of women. We cannot start a war against Syria or China in order to introduce democracy in these places.

MM: The US is the only country with democratic universalist ideas which wants to export its values.

ET: The Iraq war was a geopolitical show of strength, not a selfless democratic mission. But the Europeans must demand that the US does now put democracy into practice in Iraq. With the overthrow of Saddam comes the end of American hypocrisy. In this respect, I am a long way from the deep-seated anti-Americanism of many of the French. My grandfather was an Austrian Jew and an American citizen. My mother fled to the US during the second world war. I have a positive attitude towards America. But sadly we can no longer speak of the US as a great democracy. Its electoral system is in crisis. Internal inequality is rising. A rich American is no longer comparable with a rich European. There exists a new plutocracy, which is spoiling the American dream. Since the financial scandals, faith in the free market has been destroyed. The US is projecting its own internal disintegration onto the whole world.

MM: Is America also weakened because it has had to bear the burden of keeping the peace for 50 years?

ET: After 9/11, the threat to the US, to a nation which had until then been considered the guarantor of global security, stirred up great anxiety all around the world. Every country wanted to help. But the Americans didn't want help. They listened less and less to their allies, and became more and more arrogant. As far as the balance sheet and financial flows are concerned, the US has long been a drain on the whole world. The Europeans can no longer react to this in a friendly manner; they must counter America with industrial and financial methods. ... If there is no opposition to American militarism, then—as the Europeans well know from their own wars—it will be encouraged to pursue more adventures. Europe and Russia must create a stable strategic structure to counter it. The Atlantic axis no longer functions.

MM: Is Russia a reliable partner?

ET: Russia is no longer dangerous. The Germans obviously see this in a different light to the French, who have fewer problems with the Russians. Russia is weak and is experiencing a similar demographic crisis to that of Germany and France.

MM: Would you like a complete break with the US?

ET: No, I feel a much closer affinity to Anglo-Saxon culture than to Russian culture. But we need a counterbalance to the US. It is not so much a question of a break as a question of autonomy. In order to avoid an antagonistic relationship with the US, it is important that Britain should come back into the European fold. The greater danger is that the US will become more antagonistic and anti-European. The EU and the UN are strong, but Nato is virtually useless. Russia is a more important guarantor of European security.

MM: What can the US do to prevent decline?

ET: For the moment, the US has chosen the military path. It would be better for it to strive for industrial reconstruction, to become productive again. The world believes that thanks to its victory in Iraq, the US has achieved worldwide leadership. In fact, it used military means in response to a non-military problem. I believe this shows it has lost its omnipotence.

Okay, chaps, fire away...

An Anniversary, No Less


I am ashamed not to have remembered an anniversary I looked forward to every day as a child. It's the 59th anniversary of D-Day. Here is a selection of articles on the subject from History Today on the 40th Anniversary. I remember Reagan, Thatcher and Mitterand standing on the sands watching the British color bearer fall over because some idiot decided it would be a good idea to do a quick march on a beach. So long ago!

Scruton on the Nation


I had the pleasure of seeing Professor Roger Scruton lecture at the Heritage Foundation yesterday (you can view the lecture at the Heritage live event archive), and then even more of a pleasure to have a chance to discuss matters with him a group of heavy-hitters afterwards. Incidentally, it was a delight to meet Ramesh Ponnuru at last. Anyway, and with the promise of no more name dropping (a personal vice, as I told the Archbishop of Canterbury the last time I met him...), I thought it would be appropriate to mention something that Prof. Scruton emphasised about nation-states. There is, he says, a territoriality that is probably more important to the nation-state than race or ethnicity. The sense that the land is the people's home, the very place where they rule themselves according to their own laws and customs.

I hadn't considered this before, but I think he's right. The King of England is and has been for a very long time constrained by the Law of England, not his law, or the law of the English. Similarly, America is somewhere "from sea to shining sea," which I now realize plays an important role in the reluctance of Americans to leave their isolation. It applies to the French, Canadians and Spanish. Italy and Germany were unified because of it. Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union split because of it. It applies to China, Japan and India too, I think. It doesn't apply in much of the rest of the world, especially the Middle East (except for Turkey and Israel) and Africa. I don't know enough about South America to comment there.

The link between tyranny and terrorism is even easier to understand in this context, I think. With no real homeland as a unifying factor, artificial countries have to be held together by tyrants, of one stripe or another.

There's plenty of room for quibbling at the margins of this idea, but the central idea is unimpeachable, I'd suggest. Which is yet another reason why the European project is doomed to bloody failure.

El Kel


The former editor of The Sun (also the man who brought Topless Darts to the late but probably unlamented L!ve TV), Kelvin McKenzie has a four-point plan to lead the Tories back into Number 10. Here it is, in all its glory:

First, I would privatise the BBC. My investment banker friends say that would net £5 billion for the radio and television station. I would promise to return the whole lot to the 20 million-plus licence fee payers within 120 days of being elected. So, instead of you paying £112 to the Government, I would send you a cheque for £250.

There would be a lot of huffing and puffing from the chattering classes, but, once inside the polling booth, they would agree with me that they could do with £250 and that it would be no loss to say farewell to the Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation.

Second, I want to pull up the drawbridge on Britain. Our roads are too crowded, our house prices too high, our trains too packed. I don't want any more white South Africans, Australians, New Zealanders, Asians, Jamaicans, etc allowed into our country for the next five years.

Let's have a breathing space while we work out a better system. In the United Kingdom, there are 243 people per square kilometre; in France, it's 87; America, 29; and Australia, four. Let those with the space take the people. We have done our bit over the years. It's somebody else's turn.

Third, I want to reduce taxes. Isn't it incredible that the Conservative leadership is so gun-shy these days that it will not put tax cuts at the heart of its economic policy.

Unbelievably, tax kicks in at £90 a week. Why on earth should someone who earns so little - try living, working and travelling in London on £90 - pay any tax? I would set the starting threshold at around the £16,000 mark.

And, finally, the most important of all and the reason why I was in Oldham, I want to bring in the death penalty for DNA-proven paedophile killers. I made the speech in Oldham because it was less than 30 minutes from Saddleworth Moor, where Myra Hindley and Ian Brady buried their young dead. I object to people living their lives in warm cells with television, newspapers and three meals a day having murdered the most vulnerable in our society.

These four policies should see me comfortably into Number 10.

It both horrifies me and amuses me to say that he's probably right.

Simple Gifts


Peter Simple, who has been chronicling the decline of British civilization in his marvelous way for as long as I can remember is on fine form today:

Kiosk Speaks

At A seminar at Droitwich Spa this week, Dr Heinz Kiosk, the eminent social psychiatrist and chief psychiatric adviser to the Curtain Rail and Pelmet Authority, discussed the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"We hear a great deal about child soldiers and their part in the present atrocities. It is indeed deplorable. But can we be quite sure our condemnation of these children is free from the taint of racism and eurocentrism? Are they so different in principle from our own Boy Scouts, indoctrinated as they are with Western militarism?

"Are they so different from helpless young people conscripted into public school cadet corps? And in any case, haven't the children of the Congo learnt to commit atrocities by following the example of the European colonists who occupied their previously peaceful countries?

"It is time we faced up to the facts of colonial history and admitted our shameful part in it. Until we do so, we shall be members of a guilty society. But it is not only our society which is guilty," he went on, as his audience, alerted to the danger, began scraping back their chairs and desperately fighting their way to the doors and windows.

Too late. Dr Kiosk, his eyes revolving in opposite directions as he levitated four feet in the air, was already bellowing, "we are all guilty!"

Dr Kiosk is my leading candidate for the editorship of the New York Times, by the way.

Meanwhile, something to gladden the hearts of Rand Simberg and Jay Manifold:

A Celestial Snub

The British space probe, Beagle 2, now insolently speeding towards Mars, carries a fragment of a pop song and some fatuous art work by Damien Hirst, equally vile symbols of degenerate popular culture. Is there a chance that it will encounter our own columnar space vehicle, Don Carlos and the Holy Alliance III, now motoring on a tour of the solar system?

If it does, our august machine, programmed to avoid the swarm of vulgar objects now buzzing tastelessly about the heavens, will give no sign of recognition other than a slight increase of freezing hauteur. It will leave Beagle 2 to its banausic task of probing and burrowing into the surface of the Red Planet in its futile search for microbes and soda water.

Then away to the remote depths of space, for a weekend in the realm of the satellites of Pluto, discovered by our space vehicle on a previous expedition. There, on those delightful little worlds, a hereditary caste of noblemen spend their leisure hunting, fishing and, in the evenings, in their commodious hunting lodges, discuss such questions as the possibility of life, improbably near the sun, on our own unimaginably distant earth.

Personally, I'd name my space probe the W.G.Grace, but I suppose I'm a bit unusual that way.

Ah, the delights of local government


A friend of mine who is a Fellow at an Oxford college e-mails me this magnificent news:

The Oxford Times reports today that for a mere £1.50 pa subscription the Council will text message you when there has been a bio-terrorism outrage so you can run away. The image of everyone simultaneously picking up their phones and then trampling each other to death in the melee is just too delicious. Also we are going to have a dress rehearsal next Wednesday for and there will be a simulated attack on "a site of mass entertainment".

Obviously not Oxford United's Manor Ground then...

TCS Column Up


I have more thoughts about the administration's value of life farrago in Your Money and Your Life.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Frustrated with Blog*Spot?


And Blogger, for that matter? Then check out the redoubtable Dean Esmay's Blogspot Jihad. He is offering to convert people's blogspot/blogger blogs to Moveable Type for free. Zip. Nada. Just the hosting fees to register a domain and keep it up and running. If I didn't have a gentleman's agreement with someone else, I'd take him up on it today. Check it out, as they say. Looking won't hurt you.

La Belle de la France


Is France to be written off as a lost cause? Not if the new Joan of Arc has anything to do with it. It seems "Anglo-Saxon" ideas have inspired at least one charismatic young lady:

The daughter of two teachers from Reims, Mlle Herold was not interested in politics until about two years ago.

Since then, she has been devouring the great texts of "classical liberalism", seizing on thinkers such as Hayek, one of Margaret Thatcher's favourites, and wondering where France went wrong. Liberal conservatives are a rarity in France where the Right-wing parties are much more centrist than in Britain or America.

Mlle Herold, however, is not alone in pining for change in France. Like many of her generation, she would rather go on to business school than the Ecole Nationale d'Administration, the civil servants' graduate school that trained most of France's current political and business elite, but is losing kudos as the French state loses respect.

"There is no value put on work in France," she said. "I've just come back from Hong Kong where people love to work. In France they are always looking for a way to get out of it."

During an exchange term at Birmingham University she was impressed not only by the beer but also by the British work ethic. "If people want to work, they can work. In France we have let the union minority take us all hostage."

Chirac -- apres lui, le deluge?

The view from here


My friends Nile Gardiner and John Hulsman -- ferocious intellects both (John has worsted Paxman and appeared on The Daily Show) -- give us the American view of the current state of Europolitics on FOXNews.com. As they say:

All of [the recent idiocies mean] that now is an ideal time for Britain and America, with the support of the Poles, Czechs and other nations of Eastern and Central Europe about to enter the European Union, to present a new, positive vision for Europe. The grandiose dream of a united federal Europe, so beloved of French and German strategists, must be firmly rejected. In its place, London and Washington must call for a flexible Europe, united by a common heritage and culture, but which maintains the principle of national sovereignty at its core.

With this new vision of Europe, U.S. and British national interests converge. A common European foreign and security policy that prevents Britain from fighting alongside the United States would be a nightmare scenario for planners in Washington. The intense debate over Iraq has resulted in a fundamental shift in U.S. policy toward Europe. For 50 years the United States has encouraged and helped drive the process of European integration. However, the Bush administration is beginning to conclude that a monolithic Europe is neither in the interests of the citizens of the United States nor the people of Europe.

Sounds good so far. So what does that imply, chaps?

The vociferous condemnation of U.S. foreign policy that has emerged across Europe since Bush's "Axis of Evil" speech has awoken a sleeping giant, which until recently had been content to quietly acquiesce in what German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer once described as "the finality of European integration." In the coming years we can expect to see Washington take a more pro-active and aggressive approach toward Brussels and work more with individual European states, rather than attempt to deal with a weak and comically self-deluded Brussels.

It will be in America's interests to strengthen the hand of those European governments that oppose the concept of a highly centralized Europe. In the years ahead there will be increasing calls in Washington for a Europe of independent nation states, held together not by an artificial constitution and undemocratic government, but by the principles of free trade, individual liberty and national identity.

My philosophy towards Europe in a nutshell. Thanks, gents!

And now the waiting starts...


Ministers reach euro decision, says the Beeb. "No, but..." predicts everyone, confidently. Meanwhile, John Prescott tells us what he thinks of the press.

The Great Chicago Blogfire


I was distressed to hear what happened to the Chicago Boyz blogspot site. I was wondering what ramifications the blogger "upgrade" would have. Less bloggage tonight, therefore, as I back up all the Edge/ Tory Revival archives in anticipation of a possible move to a new bloghome.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Wear This, Ya Hags


Okay, maybe I'm a little peeved. I turned on this ghastly BBCAmerica program called "What Not To Wear" and became infuriated. These awful women tear apart some poor chick's clothing style and then give her a "make-over" to help this woman be "better". Apparently this is a TV trend all over the US and UK.

I hate 'em. It's just free advertising for the fashion industry while filling viewers with self-doubt and loathing. Now I'm not an attractive chick. Nor do I wear fashion. Jeans, t-shirt, clean hair, no make-up and I'm out the door with Helen to a petting zoo, museum or playground. Now some women may want to "look nice" that's fine. I can dress up with the best of them. But to make it the basis for judging someone!?! Oh for crying out loud.

I know I look like a goofball most days but I like myself. I can't help but suspect that some of these women are putting on the clothes and makeup to cover up self-perceived "wrongs". That these TV shows feed into this insecurity drives me round the bend. That I'm being judged based on what I wear - well, I hate to say it but I'll judge you right back as a shallow-witted cow.

Distorted picture?


Interesting. According to the Touchgraph map of Top Blogs, I'm on the extreme right. This is, of course, because the map is assembled by working out who links to whom. Most of my top blog incoming links are from right-of-center or Libertarian blogs, so I'm stuck over on the extreme right. Now I happen to get a lot of traffic from left-wing and centrist blogs as well, but because they're all British, they don't register on the graphic. Odd, isn't it, that the Leftist American blogs don't link to Leftist British blogs in the internationalist way that the right and libertarians do... Any ideas why? (I'd especially like to hear from comrades on the British left on this one).

Holy Fool


Now I know tempers on fox-hunting in the Uk run a little high, but this is too much:

Hunting is morally equivalent to rape, child abuse and torture, according to one of Britain's leading Christian experts, who is closely connected to Labour's religious establishment.

The incendiary claim, which brought immediate condemnation from pro-hunting groups, has been made by Andrew Linzey, professor of theology at Oxford University and a recognised authority on morality and its effects on people's relations with animals.

In a report to be published by the Christian Socialist Movement (CSM) in the next fortnight, Linzey will argue that there is no moral defence for hunting as sport and that it should be completely banned. 'Causing suffering for sport is intrinsically evil,' he says. 'Hunting, therefore, belongs to that class of always morally impermissible acts along with rape, child abuse and torture.'

Now I think even the House of Lords committee that made the most in-depth investigation of the scientific information available found that there was precious little suffering involved in hunting with dogs. The assumption that the poor little beast is terrified comes from rather too many anthropomorphic depictions of the fox. Which makes this reaction entirely justified in my view:

'If you ask a rape victim or a victim of torture who has suffered so much whether they think what they have gone through can be compared to hunting, I think you know the response you would get.

'Frankly, it's disgusting. We are talking about a legal pastime which is being likened to illegal acts of gross exploitation.'

As the Countryside Alliance spokeswoman said, 'If Andrew Linzey is coming up with this stuff and it is being used by the anti-hunting lobby, it is no wonder they are losing ground so rapidly.'

Pass the port


Very interesting account of Sunday Times columnist and Hudson Institute fellow Irwin Stelzer's last dinner party, where he had several distnguished types discuss the state of economies around the world. There was a thumbs up (on points) for the American economy and the Bush tax cut, including a point I hadn't considered, but now seems obvious:

In my view the day was carried by the optimists, who say that we have learned from past errors how to respond to bursting bubbles. They predict that the American economy will be growing at an annual rate of a bit under 3 percent by year's end, and at a still higher rate in 2004. As these cheery economists see it, all the pieces are in place for such a recovery. Interest rates are already low, which should keep the housing market growing at the record pace of recent months. The decline in the dollar will stimulate the export-led sector of the manufacturing and service sectors, and ward off any deflationary tendencies. And now we have the president's tax cut. ...

Moreover, everyone is underestimating the size of the tax cut. Congress halved the president's request, and approved $350 billion in tax relief over the next 10 years. But congress managed to keep the figure so low only by assuming that taxes will be allowed to return to their prior, higher levels on January 1, 2005. That, say the politicians who have experience with such things, is highly unlikely: Congressmen will not campaign in November of 2003 on promises to raise taxes shortly after taking office. So the reductions won't expire, and total tax relief is likely to approach the figure the president originally requested.

As for Old Europe, well, oh dear...

Germany is considered a basket case, its economy shrinking and its population declining to the point where it will be "economically irrelevant," in the words of one observer, within the next several decades. All of which is made worse by a soaring euro that is reducing the international competitiveness of Germany's already high-cost industries.

France is somewhat better off, partly because the one-size-fits-all interest rate set by the European Central Bank suits it better than it does Germany, partly because the exchange rates prevailing when the euro was adopted were more favorable to France than to Germany, and partly because the French simply ignore many of the growth-strangling rules that the more orderly Germans obey to the letter. In short, France's black economy provides a source of flexibility and growth not enjoyed by its German allies.

But what about the UK, and her Chancellor who so many assume to be about to push Tony Blair off his throne?

The consensus view is that the chancellor has got it wrong. His optimistic forecast ignores the noticeable slowdown in consumer demand, and the productivity-draining effects of the massive increase in taxes and the swelling of the public sector. Indeed, all of the jobs growth in the British economy now comes in the public sector, and consists of piling administrators on top of already-useless administrators.

Worse still is the effect that the new European constitution will have on Britain. The bureaucracy's ability to ensnare Britain in red tape will increase as the European court puts flesh on the bones of the constitution and its call for "worker dignity," stronger unions, and an enlarged welfare state. The U.K. economy will pay the price, and soon--or such was the view offered as the pudding was served.

Yes, yes and yes. Brown's halo will tarnish rapidly in the coming months, I think. Those EU points will loom larger as it does.

Almost, but not quite


I want to agree with the findings of the British Electoral Commission, but I can't. They have recommended the scrapping of deposits for candidates to stand for Parliament. Some may say that whoever wants to stand should be able to, without obstacle. Fine and noble in theory. Counter-productive inpractice. You see, British elections, especially by-elections (special elections) attract a large number of frivolous candidates, who really do discredit the electoral process by encouraging the electorate to treat it as a joke (strippers, local merchants, "loonies" and so on all distract from serious consideration of the issues at stake). This is not a good thing, but a perversion of the democratic ideal. It seems they didn't consider the option I would have chosen, reduction of the deposit amount but an increase in the number of verified signatures from the constituency to support candidature. That's a shame.

Two Worlds


The Pew Center for People and the Press, or whatever they're called, have released their mammoth international opinion poll on the state of the world. Very interesting reading it makes, too. It's pretty that world opinion is divided between the Anglosphere and its allies (including Italy, interestingly) and Old Europe and its hangers-on.

First, the UN is clearly seen as a busted flush. Both sides of the Iraq debate view it that way: 61% in France, 58% in Russia and 53% in Germany view their precious UN as less important now, compared to 60% in the US, 57% in the UK and 57% in Australia (also 55% in Spain and 52% in Italy). It was always the coalition line that France was dooming the UN by her intransigence. Looks like the French recognize that now. Well done, Old Europe. First you killed Kyoto, now you've killed the UN. Who knows, if the EU Constitution falls apart, we may get Win, Place and Show.

Similarly, while the British and Americans continue to believe the Atlantic Alliance has a chance, the Spanish, Italians and Germans want greater European military independence. Looks like NATO's days are numbered, too. I'm still in two minds as to whether or not this is a good thing. A lot, of course, depends on whether the UK gets sucked into a European defense identity. While that's still on the table, I want NATO to continue. The Canadians, by the way, remain heavily in favor of US-Canadian security ties.

America's image remains positive in the Anglosphere, in many caseshaving rebounded considerably since March. America is viewed positively by 70% in the UK, 63% in Canada (presumably non-Globe and Mail readers) and 60% in Australia. With the exception of Italy (60%), all the other countries with a positive view of America are former British territories in one way or another (Israel 79%, Kuwait 63%, Nigeria 61%). Everywhere else, America's image has taken a severe blow.

The strength of the antiwar movement in the UK is also revealed by the percentage who have considered or stopped buying American products: 6%. I seem to recall, although I may be wrong, that one of the nuttier Grauniad columnists called for this well before the crisis gathered. Ho ho.

Again, the Anglosphere speaks with one mind about whether or not the coalition tried hard to avoid civilian casualties: 82% agreed in the US, plus 64% in the UK, 62% in Canada and 61% in Australia. Again the Italians give us the benefit of the doubt (50%), while the Troika is less certain (Germany 41%, France 25%, Russia 14%).

The divide is also seen in the desire for more democracy in the Middle East. The percentage saying the area needs much more or somewhat more democracy is 69% in America, 61% in Canada, 61% in Australia, 60% in Britain (and 60% in Italy). Compare to 47% in France (only 5% saying "much more") and 37% in Russia. Germany is an outlier here on 67%, although the 8% saying "much more" there is lower than in any Anglosphere nation.

There's a table on the summary page showing how many people have confidence in Bin Laden or Arafat to do the right thing, which is scary. In the report itself, there's an interesting table that shows Blair is the most or second-most trusted world leader in the US (1st), Canada (1st), the UK (2nd -- behind Kofi Annan!?!), Italy (2nd, behind Kofi again), Australia (1st) and Israel (2nd, behind Bush). The President "wins" only Israel. Chirac, by contrast, won only Germany (Putin 2nd, Schroeder 4th), but came second in France (Schroeder 1st), Spain, Brazil and South Korea (all behind Kofi) and Russia (behind Putin). What the Democrats would give for Blair to be able to run for President...

Moving away from this theme, there's some very interesting questions asked in the Muslim world. In places like Pakistan, Uganda, Jordan and Ghana, Muslims want Islam to play more of a political role. In Turkey, Tanzania, Uzbekistan, Lebanon and Senegal, they want it to play less. That's heartening. The idea that Muslim nations are all charging towards fundamentalist lunacy is one that needs the cold light of day shone on it.

It is also interesting that in every Muslim state except Indonesia, including the Palestinian Authority, a majority believe Western-style democracy can work. In most such nations, majorities want to be able to criticize the government (exceptions -- Uzbekistan and Jordan), have honest two-party elections (exceptions, those already mentioned plus Indonesia and Pakistan) and have an uncensored media (same exceptions as for elections, plus Tanzania). Again, that's not the picture we get. Most of these nations, however, are not Arabic.

Anyway, there's lots more in there, including the overwhelming verdict that globalization is a good thing (France is the only country where anti-globalization protestors have anywhere like a good image), but also the interesting finding that most countries want to restrict immigration (US 81%, UK 80%, France 75%).

I'll finish with the views of Government. Here are the figures agreeing with the statements "Government controls too much of our daily lives", "Government is usually inefficient and wasteful," and "Government is run for the benefit of all people" in the indicator countries:

USA 60%, 63%, 65%
Canada 57%, 61%, 69%
UK 54%, 66%, 66%
Italy 64%, 82%, 88%
Poland 28%, 61%, 88%

France 55%, 70%, 40%
Germany 60%, 65%, 86%
Russia 34%, 57%, 50%

Jordan 46%, 48%, 50%
Pakistan 78%, 43%, 72%
Turkey 59%, 64%, 79%

Argentina 41%, 71%, 17%
Brazil 74%, 84%, 51%
Mexico 60%, 66%, 47%

India 48%, 60%, 71%
Indonesia 28%, 53%, 67%
Japan 42%, 74%, 26%

Cote d'Ivoire 46%, 52%, 69%
Nigeria 57%, 76%, 74%
South Africa 63%, 61%, 75%.

Very interesting. There's an almost universal pattern of desire of more freedom, resentment at government inefficiency but strong belief that Government can do good (except in nations where the system is on the verge of collapse, like Argentina and Japan). Funny that France should be the most cynical functional nation. Or perhaps it isn't...

PP: I've just seen the Pew Center's chairperson, Madeline Allbright, talking about this poll on The Daily Show. Her line was, basically, everyone hates us, as if Canada, Britain, Australia, Italy and so on count for naught. The silly woman was misrepresenting her own poll. This gives me a chance to tell my favorite Allbright story, though. In 1996, Clinton had just been re-elected and was replacing Warren Christopher as Secretary of State. The news came through to John Major as he and Michael Portillo were getting miked up for a press conference. Portillo leant over and told Major that Allbright had been appointed. Major exclaimed "Hell's Teeth!" loud and clear to the assembled press corps. One of the reasons why I may dislike Major's failure in office, but I don't dislike the man.

May the road rise to you


It's Slugger O'Toole's first blogiversary. You may note that I've finally got round to adding Mick's excellent blog to the blogroll on the left. There are a few more goodies added too. Check 'em out, as they say.

Sense of the Sensible


My colleague Marlo Lewis has an excellent column up at TCS today on what a proper "Sense of Congress" resolution on the "global warming" issue would look like. I agree entirely with Marlo's reading of the science, which has developed considerably since the IPCC's last report and presents a much less certain picture.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

The Journalists Themselves


My two penn'orth on Kris's journalism post. We often forget that journalism used to be a working class job. You grew up in your local community, then joined your local paper from school to do legwork on local stories. Eventually you'd get to senior positions, but you were always grounded in that basis of how stories affect local people. Now, you go to prestigious Schools of Journalism, where half the class are trust-fund kids. You are groomed for success on royal jelly. As such, you look down on the masses from an Olympian position. You know what's good for them, and you write in that spirit. That's often forgotten in the current debate.

And, of course, people react against such biased news. They seek out news sources that will reflect their worldview rather than someone else's. Fox is just following a model the liberals pioneered. Did the networks just forget that half the country is conservative? Or did they actually think they could convert them by their 'enlightened' coverage? I'm not sure which answer would be more damning.

This thing keeps on rolling


Just checked out the blogosphere's Physician General, Medpundit, who has a few things to say about the health contract idea. The slippery slope argument is important here (Eugene Volokh will be pleased):

Where does this sort of thing end? At the moment, the western world is more tolerant of sexual indiscretions than it is of dietary indiscretions. More tolerant of drug abuse than of tobacco abuse. But what happens when the pendulum swings and sexual indiscretions are no longer tolerated? Will the NHS deny publicly funded treatment for sexually transmitted diseases to people who have sex outside of marriage? Will they deny obstetrical care to single mothers? AIDS treatment to gay men who chose to have homosexual sex? Or to drug addicts who chose to use IV drugs? Taken to its logical conclusion, it’s a very rigid, inhumane policy. Surprising for a political party that’s supposed to be liberal.

Meanwhile, Stephen Pollard shows that he deserves the title of Britain's Instapundit in a very real sense with this article for The Times. His conclusion:

There is a direct link between obesity and poverty. Charging those who break their “contract” means, quite specifically, charging the poor — the very people who most need access to their GP because of the effect of their diet.

But the brains of Britain behind Labour’s new “ugh, poor people, how perfectly horrible” NHS plan have done us all a favour. They have shown the inevitable path down which a state-funded, state- delivered healthcare monopoly ends up travelling, with a rationale at once totally logical and totally surreal. If demand for a service is too high, bar access to those who use that service most. Even if they use it most because they need it most. It’s genius. It really is.

And the policymakers have also revealed in its full, blazing glory the contempt in which they really hold their fellow citizens. If you don’t measure up, ship out. If you aren’t living up to expectations, you don’t count.

Good points. Labour has actually produced a policy that speaks directly against many who are in its core vote, telling them that they're second class citizens because of their lifestyle. How stupid can you get? This could end up having more effect than the WMD issue, much to the disgust of the Guardianistas, I'm sure. The Tories should never let the working class forget that Labour proposed this one, even if they withdraw it (as I'm sure they will).

Cold water


One YouGov poll and Peter Cuthbertson has Tories going back to their constituencies and preparing for government, while Stephen Pollard has the writing on the wall for Our Tone. First of all, I've long cautioned against WhateverYouWantGuv polls, untested as they are scientifically (I agree with Bob Worcester of MORI that they probably got lucky in the last election). Secondly, I hardly think Blair is in as much jeopardy as Stephen seems to believe:

One insider told me yesterday that the Chancellor “hasn’t been so happy in ages. Sarah is pregnant, and Tony’s stuffed. It couldn’t really be much better for him”. The Prime Minister’s flagship Foundation Hospitals policy, which was intended as the boldest of all the bold new developments, has been neutered by the Chancellor’s intervention. Mr Brown forced Mr Blair to fight a bruising internal war to get his university fees policy through – and it has yet to face the anger of backbench Labour MPs, let alone many parents. And as every day brings a further deterioration in the Prime Minister’s trust ratings, and ever louder whispers against him by Labour MPs, so Gordon Brown licks his lips in anticipation. The Chancellor said no more than the bare minimum required of him during the war, and the more Mr Blair is damaged in the aftermath, the more Mr Brown is strengthened.

I'd be more inclined to go along with Stephen if there were a lot of Labour heavyweights on the backbenches leading the Brown faction for him (as there were in a supposedly similar situation when Mrs T neared her end). There aren't. Cook and Brown don't get along and Short is off her pram, as someone once said. Stephen Byers? Please.

The upshot is that this isn't a rerun of Mrs T in 1990. Blair still has the support of most of the cleverest members of the cabinet. The damp squib of the Foundation Hospitals revolt shows that the Blairite faction still has the whip hand (pun intended) over the party as a whole. The WMD question will blow over. I think the only mistake Blair made in hadnling the war was in using WMDs as the sole reason early on, but anyone arguing that we went to war over the WMD issue hasn't read his Hansard. Here's how Jack Straw summed up the debate to "authorize" military action*:

I impugn the motives of no one in the House. The different positions that we have taken all come from the best, not the worst, of intentions. But as elected Members of Parliament, we all know that we will be judged not only on our intentions, but on the results, the consequences of our decisions. The consequences of the amendment would be neither the containment nor the disarmament of Saddam's regime, but an undermining of the authority of the United Nations, the rearmament of Iraq, a worsening of the regime's tyranny, an end to the hopes of millions in Iraq, and a message to tyrants elsewhere that defiance pays.

Yes, of course there will be consequences if the House approves the Government's motion. Our forces will almost certainly be involved in military action. Some may be killed; so, too, will innocent Iraqi civilians, but far fewer Iraqis in the future will be maimed, tortured or killed by the Saddam regime. The Iraqi people will begin to enjoy the freedom and prosperity that should be theirs. The world will become a safer place, and, above all, the essential authority of the United Nations will have been upheld. I urge the House to vote with the Government tonight.

I'm surprised the Government hasn't been making this point as forcefully as it could, which leads me to suspect that there's something big in the offing. If there is, I imagine Blair's trust ratings will rebound again. So I don't think he has anything to worry about from his own backbenches. He certainly looks brighter and less haggard now than he did a few months ago. Not the sign of a man worried about his future.

So what about the threat from the Tories? First off, one poll doesn't make an election. I want to see sustained figures at this level or better before I agree it's an even fight again. There's no doubt, to my mind, that the tuition fees announcement helped. Now perhaps some similar policies on transport, health and crime might help too. And an end to any of this rubbish about "the nasty party," which really has had its day. Having said that, the fact that we're still behind in the polls despite everything speaks volumes. If we're going to win the next election, we need to be more than ten points ahead in the next year. Governments always rally towards election time, so the prospect is daunting.

Realistically, ceteris paribus, I'd say Blair will win the next election with a substantially reduced majority, but that the Tories will gain at the expense of the Liberal Democrats as well as Labour. The Iraq opportunism badly damaged Kennedy's credibility, I think.

What I'd really be interested in is reputable poling figures about how much the European Constitution issue has entered public consciousness as a vote-determining issue. I'm not sure what its status is, but if I were the Tories, I'd want to find out.

* Of course, the debate did no such thing. All it provided was moral, not legal, legitimacy. Blair could have committed troops without asking Parliament, as war is an executive, not a legislative function.

Behind the curve


Well, I said I'd mention the health contract idiocy. Actually, Layman's Logic and Marcus at Harry Hatchet (both links drabbled) have already said all that needs to be said. Apart from one thing: the ideal of universal free healthcare funded by general taxation is revealed as a myth. Health rationing reaches its obvious conclusion, and the case for it crumbles. The case for opt-outs for private insurance is made by this very policy. Unless HMG wants to have its cake and eat it (in which case, shouldn't it go on a diet?).

What The People Want To Hear


During the Iraqi War, many news channels showed the same war from many different perspectives. Some views of the war were more distorted than others. We are still seeing some of this today in the coverage of the rebuilding of Iraq (let alone all the other current events).

In this 24-hour news world, I suspect that news organizations are no longer interested in actually presenting the news so much as telling people what they want to hear. Reinforcing their belief systems rather than telling people what actually happened. As access to news gets more and more fractured, news slants are becoming more and more obvious. I don't mind the bias part so long as the news organization is honest about it. Claiming, for example, "a no-spin zone" when you are clearly a right-winger is disingenuousness at best.

News is news. Opinion is opinion. They should be kept separate. On the other hand, knowing where to find both sides of the same story is a good thing too. What do ya'll think?

Monday, June 02, 2003

Apologies...


For the lack of bloggage. I've been a tad busy, and met up with team member Frank Sensenbrenner this evening. Frank is sorry to say his current employer won't let him blog at all, but he'll be back when his internship finishes.

You can expect some outraged reaction from me tomorrow, by the way, to the headline currently flashing on the BBC News Front Page: "Fat people may have to diet to qualify for free healthcare."

Ah, the egalitarian ideal of socialized medicine at work.