Monday, January 31, 2005

Class war or what?

The Telegraph issues a correction to an earlier article which had claimed that Peter Bradley, parliamentary private secretary to Alun Michael, had admitted that the hunting ban was about class war:

[...]we stated that Peter Bradley had admitted in the Sunday Telegraph that
the hunting ban was part of the class struggle. This is incorrect. In his article [...] Mr Bradley had commented that 'the struggle over the Bill' was not just about animal welfare and personal freedom, it was class war'. We regret any misunderstanding.

Er, I'm not sure I see the distinction here. Can anyone explain?

Friday, January 28, 2005

Protecting the rights of minorities

I'm very much against alternative medicine. I think it's mumbo jumbo and the people who take it are deluded. So my first take on the Adam Smith Institute's report on the EU food supplements Directive was that it was about time too. The Directive will apparently take whole swathes of these particular types of snake oil off the shelves.

But then I thought back to this post at DM Andy's that I'd read earlier.
the Conservatives only seem to be exercised about rights they care about.

And that set me to thinking. Don't people have the right to take snake oil if they want to? Of course they do. (Just so long as they pay for their foolishness themselves). And this Directive transgressing on people's rights to enjoy what is a pretty harmless pastime, which they have enjoyed (?) with little or no harm to themselves for years. They may be fools but they have rights.

New Dutch Blog

Dutch Report is a blog new to me. He paints a frightening picture of a society on the edge of breakdown.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Wicked Americans ride roughshod over human rights

Instapundit reports on some wicked Americans who have ridden roughshod over the human rights of some armed robber victims.

Its reassuring to know that bad people like this would be locked away in this country for using unreasonable force.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Border controls

Jack Straw:
Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, last night stuck to the Government's line that the constitution did not threaten Britain's national sovereignty. "Britain will not have to relinquish control of its borders," he said.


Anti-ID card Tories

The 1952 Committee now has a fifth column within the Tory party: a new civil liberties group was set up yesterday. While the article in the Telegraph doesn't specifically say the group will oppose ID cards, it is being led by Dominic Grieve, one of the most senior opponents of the cards in the party.

Gun control

Ever since Lurch became one of the first visitors here, I have followed the gun control debate (such as it is) quite closely. I finished Joyce Lee Malcolm yesterday, and enjoyed the piece in last weekend's Telegraph on the same subject.

I've done some digging and as I understand it now, the Metric Martyrs case has shown that the Bill of Rights cannot be repealed by implication because it is a constitutional act. If this is right then the various firearms acts are illegal because they breach the Bill of Rights.

Am I right? And if so, then are we just awaiting someone to challenge the legality in court? Or am I missing something?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

"Submission" Pulled From Film Festival

Via The Adventuress

The producers of "Submission", a film about Islam by the murdered Dutch movie director Theo van Gogh, have cancelled plans to show the film at this week's Rotterdam film festival due to security fears, organisers said.

I'm not entirely sure I agree with the adventuress on this. There may be real security concerns over the showing at the festival which it would be irresponsible of the producers to ignore. They need to get the film back up on the web, or sell the rights to someone who is willing to take the risks.

Any Dutch speakers fancy approaching them?

British Crime Survey

The latest results of the British Crime Survey are out and are reported by the BBC. Leading on a headline of "Violent Crime increases by 6%", the report also covers overall crime.

Ministers said the violent crime figure was affected by changes to the way police record the crimes and pointed to a 6% fall in all crimes recorded.

Home Office Minister Hazel Blears said: "It is very encouraging to see that crime is continuing to fall.

"Compared to the peak of crime in the mid nineties there are now each year 1.4 million fewer victims of car crime, half a million fewer victims of violent crime and 600,000 fewer households burgled."

The Home Office press release is headlined "CRIME CONTINUES TO FALL" and says:
Government figures published today show that crime in England and Wales continues to fall, with the risk of being a victim of crime, at 25 per cent, the lowest in more than 20 years.

Unfortunately for Ms Blears, when the last survey was released, it was pointed out by the Crime and Society Foundation that because the BCS doesn't cover many crimes it cannot be used to justify claims about the overall level of crime. Indeed Ms Blears said at the time:

"The BCS is accepted worldwide as the most authoritative basis on which we can track current crime and trends in crime over time. "We entirely accept that it does not measure everything in terms of crime. "It measures big volume crimes - things that affect most people in their everyday lives, such as getting burgled, getting their car stolen."

[...] the Home Office said the government used statistics "appropriately" and had never claimed to measure "total crime".

Well they are claiming that now. Should we believe them....?

According to a Home Office study, quoted in the Crime and Society Foundation
report, there were more than 60 million offences committed in the year 1999/2000. That's five or six times the number reported in the BCS
[link], we shouldn't.

Part-time MSPs

Former Scottish Secretary Michael Forsyth has, with impeccable logic, suggested that since the Scottish Parliament only meets one and a half days a week, all 129 MSPs should be got rid of and their workload covered by Westminster MPs. It also has the added advantage that by removing Scottish representatives from Westminster it allows the remaining MPs to discuss English business alone, and so solve the West Lothian question.

Perhaps predictably this has been met with a barrage of criticism, but apparently not a single constructive criticism.

Margaret Curran said it was "Thatcherite" and "a cut too far". Nicola Sturgeon said it was "barmy". The Scotsman reports that it is embarrassing for the Tories.

The Scotsman doesn't report a single reason why this should not be implemented immediately.

This looks to me like the Scottish Establishment defending their turf. A constructive suggestion is made to deal with a real issue, and save real money. This is met by shouting and name calling by ignorant inbred politicians, and with contempt by their cousins in the Scottish press. There is no doubt that the English are growing in awareness of their suppressed nationhood. The Scots would do better to look at issues like the West Lothian question and address them now while they can address it on their own terms, rather than letting the matter fester until they lose control of the debate.

They won't though.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Worrying poll in the Netherlands

From the Sunday Herald:

MOST Dutch people are afraid of Muslims, according to a poll taken after the murder of a Dutch film-maker who was critical of Islam.
The poll, conducted by TNS NIPO in the Netherlands, as well as in Spain and Italy, since the November murder of Theo van Gogh by a suspected radical Islamist, showed only 19% of the Dutch do not see the presence of Muslims in the country as a threat.
Home to almost one million Muslims who make up 6% of the population, the Netherlands’ reputation for tolerance and social harmony has been shattered by the murder and a wave of attacks on mosques and churches and death threats against politicians.
Racial tensions surfaced again this week after a Dutch woman killed a youth of Moroccan origin after he stole her bag.

Something is going to give.

BBC plots to topple African state

The Sunday Times has the shocking news that the alleged coup attempt against Equatorial Guinea, in which Mark Thatcher apparently was involved, was plotted for the benefit of the BBC!
After executing the coup, the company planned to make Severo Moto, the exiled opposition leader, its own frontman, bound by contract to cede power to BBC.

This is what our licence fee pays for!

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Campaign to protect bloggers

This site is well worth a visit. And a blogrolling would be appropriate too.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Too much of a coincidence?

From the BBC:
A woman who claimed she saw photos that may show soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners has contacted police.
She told BBC One's Question Time programme she had seen the pictures while working in a photo lab in 2003, but had not told anyone.
So this woman just happened to get a ticket for Question Time and just happened to be one of the audience members selected to speak and just happened to have seen these photos? It doesn't feel right to me.

80% of Iraqis likely to vote

It looks like turnout for the Iraqi elections will be very high.
An overwhelming majority of Iraqis continue to say they intend to vote on Jan. 30 even as insurgents press attacks aimed at rendering the elections a failure, according to a new public opinion survey.
The poll, conducted in late December and early January for the International Republican Institute, found 80 percent of respondents saying they were likely to vote, a rate that has held roughly steady for months.

This will be hard for the mainstream media to square with their relentlessly negative reporting from Iraq. No, a successful election will not necessarily put to an end the bloodshed, but politically it will make clear that the "insurgents" are representative of noone except an extremist minority.

Via Roger Simon


The Guardian's leader writer comments on the loss of confidence in public life caused by the Goverment's use of political patronage and cronyism.
Lord Justice Potter may be just the man to head the family division. But without a transparent system of appointment it appears more significant that he has a long friendship with the lord chancellor. He is damaged. His position is damaged. And trust in public life is once again the loser.

True. But the Guardian, supporting as it does a leading role for the state in most areas of public life, is only encouraging patronage and cronyism. Politicians of all parties use political patronage. It is one of their best levers for acheiving their political and personal ends. The Guardian's idea that this can be countered by a public appointments commissioner is naive. History, in the shape of the hounding of the former parliamentary standards commissioner Elizabeth Filkin, shows that politicians can manipulate a civil servant "watchdog" in order to ensure compliance with their wishes.

The best way to minimise patronage and its corrupting effect on public life is to hand decision making power back to individuals. Where the state absolutely must take a role and a commissioner is required, politicians should play no part in their hiring and firing. Better to have a directly elected office holder, or perhaps an office holder appointed by the House of Lords.

Government ignores blatant fraud

The Scotsman reports:
THE depth of Scotland’s sickness culture was exposed yesterday by government statistics showing that one in 12 Scots of working age is classified as too ill or disabled to get a job.

This is blatant fraud which the Executive is at best tolerating and at worst encouraging. Heads should roll.

Private operations

The BBC reports on the private fast-track treatment centres that are starting to come on stream. They offer routine elective surgery to NHS patients.
Private treatment centres are taking work away from the NHS, according to health service bosses.

It is well documented that the main reason the British healthcare system is so far behind the French and German systems is the lack of private sector input. The NHS has manifestly failed to deliver effective treatment and it is right that someone else be offered the opportunity to do it better.
[Nigel Edwards, policy director of the NHS Confederation] added that it was unfair foundation trusts were barred from bidding for work being carried out by the independent treatment centres.

It would be nice if the private and public sectors could be set up in direct competition, letting the fittest survive. Experience of trying to break the private sector monopoly in telecoms in the eighties suggests, however, that the Government had no choice but to force the market open in this way. The NHS, not having shareholders to answer to, could price private providers out of the market in order to maintain their monopoly. As more centres are brought on stream the private sector should start to gain from economies of scale and innovation. This should allow them to compete against the inbuilt advantage that the public sector has in terms of incumbency and access to cheap finance.

Credit where credit is due. This is a good reform, even if it is too small, and it has taken NuLabour seven years of woffling about saving the NHS from Tory privatisation to get round to privatising it themselves.

And its a pity for me because I live in Scotland, the last country bar North Korea where socialism is seen as a valid way to run an economy, and where no such reforms have been made.


Via Instapundit, the CIA reports that the EU will break up within 15 years if it doesn't reform its welfare systems.

This is what's known as a win-win situation.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

"Her Master's Voice".....

is the headline at Stern on Condoleeza Rice's relationship to George Bush.

This has created a furore over at Medienkritik, where many commenters think it is pure racism. I do too.

This is ridiculous

From the BBC

A Conservative Parliamentary candidate has been suspended after he was pictured on the internet with a range of guns, rifles and a hunting knife.

He was suspended for having his photo taken? With legal weapons? Have they gone completely bonkers?

Hirsi Ali returns to Netherlands parliament

From Netherlands Radio:
Controversial Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali has returned to public life after more than two months in hiding, determined to continue with her fight against Muslim oppression.At the press conference, an optimistic Ms Hirsi Ali vowed to continue with all aspects of her work.
“I will go on with my work here in parliament. I will attend all the meetings, I will control our government. And, beyond that I will keep on writing articles, I will keep on writing scripts for not just Submission Part II but Part III and so on. I will do anything in my power to keep the oppression of women on the agenda.”

The news that she is to make follow-ups to Submission is important and welcome. Of course the BBC, in the wake of "Jerry Springer", will be fighting for the broadcast rights, to show how even-handed they are in their treatment of different faiths.



Conversation with Mrs Bishop while watching the football tonight:

Mrs B: So Exeter have lots of foreign players too do they?
Mr B: Dunno. They've got a Brazilian....
Mrs B: What? All of them?

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The crumbling of the climate change edifice

There has been much speculation that the environmentalists are on the run. More evidence of this today at Melanie Philips:
An expert on hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons, Chris Landsea, has resigned from the International Panel on Climate Change after what he says was a gross misrepresentation of scientific evidence to claim falsely that global warming was producing more hurricane activity.

Now as Ms Philips rightly says, this is, if correct, a scandal. But if my memory serves me correctly scandals at the IPCC are not without precedent.
On 25th July 1996, the American Meteorological Society (AMS) sent an open letter to Benjamin Santer, Lead Author of Chapter 8 of the IPCC 1995 Report, a chapter which generated public controversy as a result of allegations that Santer had altered the text of Chapter 8 after the meeting of authoring scientists had approved a draft. The altered version of the IPCC report contained that infamous claim that there was "... a discernible human influence on global climate".[Link]

Efficiency savings

Both Labour and the Tories are going to make efficiency savings and most of these are going to be ploughed back into public services.

So, what they mean is that if they find any efficiency savings they are going to waste them somewhere different, right?

The dole as way of life

We are presumably meant to believe that in all of his 18 years in this country Mr Bakri Mohammed has been assiduously been seeking work, but he has found no suitable vacancies. One assumes that his benefit office have been diligently ensuring that he is genuinely seeking work? He has proof of interviews attended, and applications written?

This is an ABUSE, which the Labour party and the Tories before them have accepted. And they wonder why politicians are held in contempt.

Channel Four on Omar Bakri Mohammed

Jon Snow interviewed Omar Bakri Mohammed, the Islamist cleric who has been accused in many quarters of declaring war on the west in an internet sermon.

The tone of the interview was extraordinary. The best way I can describe it is a "jolly chat" with much good humour shown on both sides. Now charitably one could put this down to Snow trying to make Bakri Mohammed appear as a character not to be taken seriously. I hope it was not indicative of Snow not taking his threats seriously.

Snow's main point of attack was on the claim that the sermon called for Moslems to join al-Qaeda and in particular this quote:
"These people are calling you and shouting to you from far distant places: al jihad, al jihad. They say to you my dear Muslim brothers, ‘Where is your weapon, where is your weapon?’ Come on to the jihad,” he said.
They then debated the exact meaning of the word "jihad". Now frankly if Moslems disposed to violence disappear off to far distant lands that's fine with me, particularly if they choose one heavily populated by the US military. Far more worrying to me was this line:
“I believe the whole of Britain has become Dar ul-Harb (land of war). In such a state, he added, “the kuffar (non-believer) has no sanctity for their own life or property.”
Now that looks very much like a threat to non-moslems, and I cannot understand why it was not covered in the interview. The introduction to the piece did mention "land of war" but didn't explain the concept nor did it mention the status it gave to the "kuffar" as helpfully elaborated by Mr Bakri Mohammed.

I cannot understand why this should be.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Estelle Morris opposes hate speech law

From the BBC:
Ms Morris said she would rather allow people the right to free speech, than to introduce new legislation to try and prevent them from being offended.

Can we assume then that she opposes the proposed hate speech laws?

Faith schools

The BBC:
Independent Muslim schools must make greater efforts to show pupils a British "common heritage", says the education watchdog for England.

I saw David Bell, the watchdog in question, interviewed on Channel Four tonight. In an astute bit of questioning the interviewer, Jon Snow, asked if large numbers of girls were not receiving a proper education at these schools. Mr Bell didn't appear to deny it. Bell also said these schools had 12 to 18 months to correct this situation or lose their licences.

Now I don't like this at all. The idea of the state interfering in the relationship between parent and child is abhorrent. Do parents have the right to bring up their children in ignorance? I would cautiously say "yes". But only because "ignorance" is impossible to define. If we close a Moslem school for failing to teach girls properly, do we close the evangelical schools for teaching creationism? Ban homeschooling because it isolates children from their peers?

Whenever the state gets involved you know that there will be nasty unintended consequences. Another approach is needed.

Monday, January 17, 2005

The next van Gogh?

Dutch blog Zacht Ei reports on an artist who appears to be trying to provoke an attack.
[H]is paintings show imams having sex, as well as imams eating human excrements.

This kind or provocation is absolutely necessary if the West is to retain freedom of speech in the face of religious oppression.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Another plane hijacking foiled?

I got this via Dissecting Leftism. Michelle Malkin reports:

Physician blogger Dr. Bob says one of his patients, a federal air marshal, told him about a foiled hijacking involving boxcutters hidden in overhead luggage bins

Saturday, January 15, 2005


Alan Milburn:
He said people had to be confident that if they worked hard, they would get something back.

There is a mindset on display here. Milburn thinks that the money belongs to the government, and wants us to be grateful for allowing us to keep some of it.

Who needs schools?

Everyone should read Jonathan Rose in City Journal, on working class autodidacts.
Will Crooks (b. 1852), a cooper living in extreme poverty in East London, once spent tuppence on a secondhand Iliad, and was dazzled: "What a revelation it was to me! Pictures of romance and beauty I had never dreamed of suddenly opened up before my eyes. I was transported from the East End to an enchanted land. It was a rare luxury for a working lad like me just home from work to find myself suddenly among the heroes and nymphs of ancient Greece."

The Candidate Speaks

The Candidate's husband is disgusted with Michael Howard's posturing over Prince Hairy (or whatever his name is) and his Nazi uniform, and thinks she should stand as an independent.

Or she could join Michael Portillo's new (classical) liberal party?

What have the French been up to?

This could be explosive (via Roger L Simon):
Who can forget the heart-rending video of the young Palestinian boy Mohammed l-Dura dying in the arms of his father after being shot by Israeli soldiers? Made by France 2, it became a sympbol of Infiada II. For some time now, however, many people have cast doubt on the authenticity of this video.

Friday, January 14, 2005


The Scotsman

The stench, the reek of cronyism in Scotland’s devolved government is now
overwhelming. The number of appointments from within a small circle of people,
for whom who they know appears at least as important as what they know, is
staggering. I shall spare readers the details but after eight years of their
rule Labour is to blame and the Liberal Democrats, with their umbilical link to
power, are now just as guilty.

The problem is that the Scottish public doesn't know and doesn't care. The good people will leave and the rest will vote Labour.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Guardian on home education

AL Kennedy in the Guardian pens a piece on the alternatives to the state education system and is scathing about homeschoolers.

[T]he only Blairite option has involved pestering and underfunding schools and universities, the perpetuation of policy doublethinks and the replacement of teaching with testing wherever possible.

It all depends on your definition of underfunded. According to this:

Across the UK, funding for education is to rise to £77bn by 2007-08, up from £37bn in 1997 and £59bn this year. In England, spending per pupil will rise from an average £4,500 to £5,500, twice the 1997 figure.

Now an increase of £59bn in 2004 sounds a lot to me. And £5500 would more than cover the cost of my local prep school's fees. Perhaps I can spell it out for Ms Kennedy. The government can pay for everyone to go to a private school, and in my case they could pay my kids' fees and give me some cash back. As it is, I can't afford the fees.

But it could be worse.

Golly. This is remarkable. What could possibly be worse than a British state education?

State education in the United States favours teaching 11-year-olds about capital letters and self-esteem - should funds be available.

OK, an American state education. I think I'll buy that, but I don't think there's much in it to tell the truth. There's more though

And beyond a horrifying national curriculum lies the strange land of home schooling and Christian Reconstructionist institutions like the Robertson School of Government and Patrick Henry College. (The same Patrick Henry College that supplies so many White House interns.)

Yup, that's the same Patrick Henry college that recently defeated Oxford University in a moot court competion. They're getting uppity those rednecks aren't they AL?

So what is so awful about homeschoolers?

Here, in the intellectual equivalent of Tupperware boxes, students are isolated from the media, the internet and any information which is not "biblical". Which is to say, most sciences, much of literature, medicine and history - and definitely no astronomy or archaeology. And even in this rarefied, if not medieval, atmosphere, it's reckoned risky to attempt anything beyond a masters degree for fear of undermining your "core values". But expose its adherents to an uncensored news broadcast, a CS Lewis novel, a snippet of Jerry Springer - The Opera, or a single Private Eye cover, and you can expect a replay of The Exorcist within moments.

Well, this seems a bit of a non-argument. American homeschoolers may (or more likely may not) be all of the things that AL Kennedy says, but the whole point about homeschooling is that parents get to teach what they think is worthwhile. If a parent wants to do a couple of days on Jerry Springer, rounded off with learned discussion on Private Eye editorials, that is their right and privilege. And if they want to study the Bible from dawn to dusk they can do that too. It's called liberty.

Kim du Toit homeschools his children and he gives an example of their typical week(keep scrolling). For example the reading for his 16 year old includes:
Roald Dahl – Taste
Saki (H.H. Munro) – Sredni Vashtar
James Joyce – A Painful Case
Mark Twain – The Danger of Lying in Bed
Guy de Maupassant – The Necklace
(Normally, we include essays in the mix, but it's the first week after the holidays, so we're a little more relaxed. Next week will include Engels, Santayana and Nock.)

And he learns 30 words of Spanish every day. Most state school children leave school not knowing thirty words of English, let alone learning thirty of Spanish every day.

How typical of the Guardian to turn down the opportunity for a meaningful look at the alternatives to state education in favour of some bigoted ranting.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Lincoln was gay?

Instapundit couldn't care:
The guy saved the nation, and I'm supposed to care about where he put his wing-wang?

Ignorance is probably bliss, I would say.

Where is the Royal Navy?

Almost every blog I read at the moment is full of praise for the US and Australian navies who are leading the relief operations in Asian after the tsunami.

As a patriotic Brit I was wondering quite what has happened to the Royal Navy and why bloggers are not praising their efforts too. From the Department for International Development, this is why:

The Armed Forces are providing support to the disaster relief efforts which are being coordinated by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and DFID.

The Royal Fleet Auxiliary [Diligence], the frigate HMS Chatham and Royal Navy Engineers have been deployed into the disaster zone. For more details, visit the MOD Operation Garron website.

And that's it. TWO ships. From the whole Navy. And what on earth are the rest of the Navy doing? The Op Garron site shows that there are also some aircraft involved, but surely the Royal Navy can deploy more muscle than this? Or have we offered and been turned down?

According to Navy News :
Two British ships are involved in the relief effort following the Asian tsunami tragedy, and other ships are on notice to join in if needed.

But I keep reading that there are still unburied bodies in the disaster zone. And homes ruined. And clean water is lacking. Why are these ships not needed?

I have missed the England Project

The Christmas break was far too long with out insights like this:
Down to Earth is not how I would describe Prescott. Subterranean would be more accurate. Positively troglodyte in appearance and action. Am I the only one who sees the scales? He's up there with spiders, cauliflowers and cats. Unnatural. Simply not of this world.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

It's always the French

With an almost monumentally badly timed

Mr Benn for Labour leader

No, no that Mr Benn. Tory blogger Iain Dale is tipping Hilary Benn to replace Tony Blair as leader. What's more he thinks we are into the last few weeks of Blair's reign.

I don't know about you but this strikes me as cloud cuckoo land, but he's much closer to Westminster than I am.

Guardian in talking sense shock

This is a pretty devastating indictment of the acheivements of the Blair government.
Mantraps, ready to cripple liberty, lie all around us, as if we were villagers
trying to poach the lord's game.

I agree with everything he says, but he doesn't draw the obvious conclusions, which are. Come May, anyone but Labour. For all our sakes.

Nothing to see here

The Rathergate report is out and surprise, surprise the BBC aren't reporting it.

Monday, January 10, 2005

WWF, Greenpeace OK to DDT

I was alerted to this story by Caberfeidh.

Nicholas Kristof of the NY Times, has written a piece calling for DDT to be brought back into use:

If the U.S. wants to help people in tsunami-hit countries like Sri Lanka and Indonesia - not to mention other poor countries in Africa - there's one step that would cost us nothing and would save hundreds of thousands of lives.

It would be to allow DDT in malaria-ravaged countries.

At the same time contacted WWF and Greenpeace about the same issue and got surprisingly reasonable responses.

"I called the World Wildlife Fund, thinking I would get a fight. But Richard Liroff, its expert on toxins, said he could accept the use of DDT when necessary in anti-malaria programs. 'South Africa was right to use DDT,' he said. 'If the alternatives to DDT aren't working, as they weren't in South Africa, geez, you've got to use it. In South Africa it prevented tens of thousands of malaria cases and saved lots of lives.'"

"At Greenpeace, Rick Hind noted reasons to be wary of DDT, but added: 'If there's nothing else and it's going to save lives, we're all for it. Nobody's dogmatic about it.'"

Kristof's call came out of an article discussing western reaction to the tsunami and other crises in the third world. If every cloud has a silver lining then the tsunami's silver lining could be of staggering importance. As Captain's Quarters points out, 165,000 people die of malaria every month.

Update: It was Kristof, not Junkscience that contacted WWF. Mea culpa.

More on Middle Eastern democratisation

Having noted in earlier posts the increasing pressure for Arab democratisation in Syria and Egypt, I was pleased to read Joshua Muravcik in the LA Times:

For the Arab world, 2005 may be remembered as the year of the election. Today, Palestinians will choose a new president. Three weeks later, Iraqis will elect a national assembly. This will be only the beginning. Palestinians will go to the polls no fewer than three more times before the year is out, to elect municipal councils, a new legislative body and new leadership within Fatah, the dominant political party. The Iraqi assembly, in addition to forming a government, will write a constitution that will be put to a national referendum in the fall, followed by new elections.


From February through April, Saudi Arabia will hold municipal elections throughout the kingdom, a landmark step of popular participation for an absolutist regime that has imprisoned academics merely for advocating constitutional monarchy.This spring, Lebanon will hold parliamentary elections.

These are nothing new, but for the first time, a multiethnic opposition to the Syrian puppet regime might actually win a significant share. Late in the year, Egypt will hold parliamentary elections, the first step toward choosing a president. The presidential outcome is noncompetitive and foreordained if, as expected, Hosni Mubarak seeks another term. But restlessness with the rule of the 76-year-old chief who has held the presidency for more than 24 years may result in livelier-than-usual contests for parliamentary seats. Elections are also scheduled in Yemen and Oman.

I think proclaiming the birth of Arab democracy is to overstate the case somewhat. It's light at the end of the tunnel, but there's still a lot of tunnel to negociate yet.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Help the Iranian bloggers

Jeff Jarvis is calling for help for Iranian bloggers who are facing a crackdown from the mullahs.

1. What will it take to create the technical means to allow blogs to be distributed around addresses that can be blocked -- e.g., distributed via P2P means such as BitTorrent, or via RSS and email.... We've talked about this on blogs and at meetings but there's no momentum because no one is leading the charge. What are the solutions? Who can create them?

2. Shouldn't we bloggers be protesting the censorship of blogs? Shouldn't some of us -- via Media Bloggers or Global Voices or Google or journalism schools or journalists' associations or the Online News Association -- be decrying this censorship of citizens' media and goading political leaders in the U.S. and Europe to protest?

Not unprofessional. Accurate.

Via Caberfeidh I found this article at Varifrank, who has explained his feelings to some dumb anti-Americans.

"The day an American has to move a European out of the way to help in some part of the world it will be a great day in the world, you sniggering little fucknob..."

What a marvellous epithet for anti-Americans. I wonder if it will stick the way "moonbat" has.

US to be eleventh flat tax economy?

With Romania recently becoming the tenth flat tax economy, the question I have been asking is which will be the first major country to make the change. There were rumours last year that George W Bush was considering a flat tax as one of the planks of his second term, although nothing concrete was mentioned during the campaign.

Now however he has appointed a commission to look at the whole area of the US tax code and given it until July to report.

One is tempted to say that if the US switched over, then the floodgates would open, and the rest of the developed world would follow, but this is probably too optimistic. From a UK perspective, even starting a debate on the subject would be a victory and realistically this is all we can hope for.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Please tell me this is a joke!

The 'Thudguard' protective safety hat will cushion a child's head against bumps, bruising and laceration, whilst developing and exploring newfound mobility.

Here's betting that they start to become compulsory at nurseries.


I'm currently reading John Taylor Gatto's Underground History of American Education, which is an eccentric but eyeopening tale of how America got from near universal literacy (among blacks and whites) to extraordinary levels of illiteracy, via the introduction of compulsory schooling.

So this evening I was seeing what the blogosphere had to say on the subject and came across this amazing story.

A man and his 12-year-old daughter spent the last four years living in a remote hillside in Portland's Forest Park, police said.


[The man], a devout Christian, said he taught his daughter using [..] old encyclopedias.


A pediatrician found the girl free of any illness, any signs of physical or sexual abuse - and no cavities. A criminal background check came up empty, according to police reports. Even though the child and father lived for such a long time disconnected from society, the girl had been home schooled and was in good physical shape. In fact, the girl received a very good education from her father while living among the trees. Officials said the girl, who would be normally in 7th grade, is at a 12th grade equivalency.

So just remind me what we pay the teachers for?

Hat tip: Homeschooling Revolution

No, no shame at all

Melanie Philips discusses government minister Mike O'Brien's grovelling plea in Muslim Weekly to the Muslim community to vote Labour, and his implication that that Muslims should not vote for Michael Howard because he is a Jew.


God, they have NO shame

Guido believes that Blunkett is still enjoying his Belgravia des res and chaffeur driven car at our expense. Dave Heasman tells me that since they are no longer required for his employment duties they are now a taxable benefit.

Friday, January 07, 2005

The Gathering Place

The shenanigans around the Scottish Parliament stink, and I think a bit of digging might be worthwhile:

Can anyone tell me if the estimated cost of £770k for a documentary, filmed in the UK, is reasonable? It sounds mindboggling expensive to me.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Why politicians are held in contempt

While researching the previous post, I was surprised to see that Ruth Kelly was planning to do away with the Surplus Places Rule having read only yesterday a government minister saying that there was no such rule.

A minimal amount of googling showed that this was David Miliband.
The Minister said there was no surplus places rule, but this statement was described as ‘accurate and absolutely misleading’ by the Independent’s parliamentary sketch writer, Simon Carr, in the next day’s ‘Independent’ newspaper. Simon Carr added that “there is a committee which he [David Miliband] chairs that issues guidelines [not rules] that schools should not expand while there are places available in the same area”.

OK so its a guideline, not a rule. Someone should have a whisper in Mr Miliband's ear and tell him that an honest man would clarify the issue by explaining this. A dishonest one says "There is no such rule".

That's why politicians are held in contempt.

School expansion

The Guardian has a trailer for the speech today by Ruth Kelly the new education secretary.
Mrs Kelly has kept a relatively low profile over the Christmas break while reading up on her new brief. But on the first day of the job, she signalled that she would put the parents' agenda at the heart of her policies for schools. She said: "What I am going to say is that my priorities are the priorities of every parent - rising standards in our schools, good teaching in the classroom, good school discipline so that children can really learn.

What? Motherhood and apple pie? Exciting stuff.

There have apparently been reports that Ms Kelly is going to do away with the surplus places rule.
A promise to drop the so-called surplus places rule, which limits the number of pupils at each school, would be welcomed by parents who struggle to get their children into the most popular schools.

This I suppose is something to be applauded, but at the end of the day it's tinkering at the edges rather than "thinking the unthinkable". The Secondary Heads Association is against the changes:
In its response to a consultation on the proposals to expand popular schools, the deadline for which was last Friday, the Secondary Heads Association wrote: "SHA is wholly opposed to the proposals to make it easier for 'popular and successful' schools to expand." It goes on: "SHA believes that there is no evidence that large schools are better per se, nor that parents specifically wish their children to attend large schools."

And they are probably right too. If your child is at a medium-sized successful school that then expands into a huge school you might not be too happy about it. In a free market, of course, a school would have the option of opening another branch elsewhere in the town if they felt that was a better solution, an option which is denied to state schools. Until the politicians can learn to let go we are fated to have an education system that cannot respond to the needs of its customers.


The BBC now has a report on the speech as it was delivered, and the dropping of the rule wasn't included.

Some news reports earlier this week had suggested she would also stress that
popular schools could expand - which the Tories have made another important apect of their proposals, to extend parental choice. But her focus was on the drive for greater choice between increasingly diverse state schools, and giving pupils more choice within the curriculum, tailoring education to the needs of the individual.

Translated into English this means that if the school you fancy is full then tough. Same old story.

Naked streets

No, not the pedestrians. They're going to take down all the street signs, remove all the kerbs and white lines and traffic lights.

All traditional signals and barriers used to separate the carriageway and pavement will be removed and the question of who has priority will deliberately be left open. Even the kerb will be eliminated as part of the scheme to create Britain’s first such “shared space”.

This is, when you think about it, a profoundly libertarian thing to do. What it says to car drivers and pedestrians is: "You are responsible for your own safety and for the safety of the other road users around you". Which is exactly as it should be. I think it's fair to say that we have gone as far as we can with the state telling us to stop or go or slow down or speed up. It hasn't worked, so now they are going to try the opposite approach.

I'm sure this will work. Anyone who has ever encountered a bend in the road where a sign has fallen down or broke off will know that your immediate reaction to the fright you get is to slow down.

It will also have the beneficial side effect of needing the removal of all the ugly signage that frankly distract drivers and probably cause more accidents than they stop.

Golly, I think they've done something right.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

What did you do on your holidays?

Guido reckons that Tony Blair went for Botox treatment!

Bill Cash on the EU Stability & Growth Pact

From the Times

There is low growth and high unemployment. No stability, no growth, no pact.


Here's a job for the blogosphere

Magnus Linklater on the Freedom of Information Act in the Times:

A plethora of reasons will be offered for withholding documents, either on the grounds of cost or conflict with the various exemptions mentioned above. Those who persevere may have to appeal to the Information Commissioner if they are turned down, and then go through another long process. Finally, the papers that are released are likely to be mind-numbing in length and arcane detail. Reading, understanding and distilling them will require time and patience. “This is the hour of the long-term clever nerd,” comments Professor Peter Hennessy, veteran observer of the Whitehall scene.

..or alternatively hundreds of eyeballs all going over the detail and distilling it down, analysing and cross-checking every last sentence. A job for the blogs.

Mistaken identity? Or not?

From the Glasgow Herald

THE Royal Bank of Scotland is being targeted by Palestine and Muslim campaigners after it closed the bank account of a British-based pro-Palestinian organisation. Friends of Al Aqsa (FoAA), which says it promotes human rights in Palestine, has been given until January 15 by RBoS to find alternative banking arrangements. Ismail Patel, its chairman, has also had his personal and business accounts withdrawn by the bank
Ismail Patel claims that the closure is due either to mistaken identity or to Islamophobia.

While Friends of Al Aqsaa doesn't appear to be on either the Home Office or the Bank of England proscribed lists, a bit of internet digging suggest that they might not be the kind of organisation you would want as a customer.

See this, this, or this.

While there is nothing particularly concrete, he does seem to admire some pretty unpleasant people. If I were the bank I would want to steer clear.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

To blunkett or not to blunket

I enjoyed this comment to a post on the Downing Street Says site:

The very word "blunkett" should be incorporated into the English Language (Like "Bobbitt" - cf. to mean "quintessential hypocrite" in the sense of:

"to blunkett" - v., to demand personal privacy after being caught red-handed in a crime while demanding abolition of all privacy for others. To be the quintessential hypocrite.

"a blunkett" - n., (doing ...) the act of snivelling, squirming "owning up" AFTER being caught and at the same time trying to blame everyone else.

"blunkettly" - adv., (... arrogant) proclaiming high values and innocence while being blatently deceiptful, dishonest and hypocritical.

And what about Becky?

Continuing the theme of the previous post, I plugged into Google the name of the interviewer of Peggy Gish, a woman named Becky Branford. Apart from previous articles (she seems to travel a lot), I came up with a mention of an identical name in this online petition trying to obtain the release of two people being held after the riots at the G8 summit in Genoa.

I can't be sure if this is the same person (the profession listed is "Copy editor" which is similar enough to journalist to make me think it is) , but wouldn't it be marvellous if our Becky turned out to be an anticapitalist campaigner! Then we could have a lefty anticapitalist interviewing a lefty antiwar campaigner in the interests of evenhandedness!

I must do some more digging tomorrow, but now it's time for bed.

Googling the news (2)

The BBC carries an interview with an American lady who has been taking detainee testimony in Iraq. She has some eye-opening tales to tell.

We heard about very violent house raids in the middle of the night, in which US soldiers would storm in, and if the men did not get down immediately, they would knock them down and beat them.

Then their house would be ransacked, often with property damage. Many would report that at the end of that time jewellery and money would be missing. Then the men of the household would be taken away

So who is this lady? The interviewer, Becky Branford, helpfully includes an introductory paragraph.
Peggy Gish, 62, is an American woman who has spent 13 months over the past two years logging the cases of Iraqi detainees with the ecumenical humanitarian group Christian Peacemaker Teams.

Well I wasn't quite sure what an ecumenical humanitarian group did. So I googled "Peggy Gish".

Amongst other things, I came up with this.(all bold is mine)

Christian Peacemaker Teams, a program of Brethren, Quaker and Mennonite Churches, has posted volunteers in Iraq since Oct 25, 2002. More recently, additional delegations have gone to Iraq to educate the public and "get in the way" of potential military attacks.


Seven members of Christian Peacemaker Teams; two members of the Iraq Peace Team, a related group; and three other internationals were expelled by the Iraqi government today.

The expelled CPT members include Peggy Gish; Cliff Kindy; Weldon Nisly, 57, of Seattle, Wash.; Betty Scholten, 69, of Mt. Rainier, Md.; Kara Speltz, 65, of Oakland, Calif.; Jonathon and Leah Wilson-Hartgrove, both 22, of Devon, Pa.

So it appears that our Peggy is in fact one of the human shields who struggled to keep Saddam in power. Let's read some more from the interview:
But in many ways things have got worse - there is less electricity and water, unemployment is at 50% or 60%, there is much more danger. People are feeling very discouraged and fearful.

I don't know about you but my estimation of the truthfulness of what she says is rather different knowing who she is and why she went to Iraq.

Votes for Iraqis in Syria

The BBC reports that Syria will allow Iraqi citizens living in its territory to vote in the forthcoming elections, and will set up a voting centre in Damascus.

The Syrian government signed an agreement with the International Organization for Migration, which will run an out-of-country voting scheme. This will allow Iraqis to register and vote at an election centre in the Syrian capital, Damascus. Thirteen similar election centres are planned in other countries with large numbers of Iraqis.

I'm amazed that Damascus is allowing this to happen. It can only increase the pressure on Assad to allow democratic reforms. The report suggests a reason why though:

[...]Syria has been under steady criticism from the United States in recent months over its role in Iraq

If the Bush policy has been to cause a mass outbreak of democracy in the Middle East as a means of cutting out support for terrorism, then the signs look promising that he is going to be proven triumphantly correct.

Iraqis will vote despite violence

Via LGF, this report from the Iraqi press of a recent opinion poll.

Will the security problems cause you to?
Not come out and vote the day of elections = 18.3%
Come out and vote the day of elections = 78.3%
No opinion = 3.4%
After all the pessimism about the Afghan elections it will really be too much if the Iraq elections are a roaring success too.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Only on a blog

Blogs are at their best when they turn up something everyone else has missed. Powerline has a translation of an article that appeared in an Arabic newspaper in Iraq showing some recent successes for the new Iraqi National Guard.

Since so many hopes for the future are pinned on the ING this sort of success is encouraging. Personally though, I worry that this particular article might be filed under "Too good to be true". Time will tell.

Did the Home Office order Griffin's arrest?

One of the joys of advocating free speech is having to stand up for racists. So take a deep breath and hold your nose.

Rod Liddle writing for the Spectator has uncovered evidence suggesting that the arrest of Nick Griffin, the leader of the BNP, was ordered by politicians in the Home Office.

Curious to find out a little more about the mechanics behind the arrest of Mr Griffin, I spoke to the magistrate who signed the warrant for his arrest. That’s Mrs Valerie Parnham, who lives near Bradford.

[A] timorous Mrs Parnham came on the telephone. ‘I can’t say anything about this. I could get into trouble.’

Read the whole thing.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Stifling free speech is honourable

Here is Labour trying to win Moslem votes again:

From The Sunday Times:

Among those rewarded for services to “gender issues” and “diversity” — as well as hairdressing, cleaning, typing and even ping pong — in the new year honours list is an intriguing cove who has not received the attention he so richly deserves: please meet Syed Abdul-Aziz Pasha OBE, as he now is.

The founder of the Union of Muslim Organisations has been rewarded “for services to race relations”. Hmm. He led a campaign to ban The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. Even by Labour’s dexterous reasoning, it is a tad unclear how this service enhanced “race relations”.

This looks hopeful

The Sunday Times:

SECRET negotiations aimed at ending the four-year Palestinian intifada against Israel have been taking place between Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas, the frontrunner to succeed Yasser Arafat in next Sunday’s presidential elections.

This looks hopeful.

Clarkson on deer control

Must-read article by Jeremy Clarkson in the Sunday Times:

Worse still, deer were responsible last year for 15,000 road accidents in Scotland alone. Ten people died, pinned to their headrests by those antlers after the animal came through the windscreen. Not a nice way to go.

A similar number were killed in East Anglia, and on one stretch of road through Cannock Chase in Staffordshire a deer is apparently hit once every three days. He must be getting awfully fed up with it by now.

Read the whole thing.

On bats and windfarms

When we moved in to our current home, one of our first visitors was the minister from the local church. After a bit of a chat we got to talking about the local wildlife, and the conversation eventually turned to bats. Which made her explode.

It was a bit of a shock to hear a lady of the cloth explode, but that is exactly what happened. It appeared that the local bat protection league had got some sort of a legal writ forbidding the minister from lighting a fire in the fireplace in her sitting room because they were worried that this might disturb the bats which roosted in her attic. Because of this she was left with the unenviable choice of sharing her sitting room with bats (of which she was terrified) or shutting off that end of the house completely. And she was raging about it. But there was nothing she could do because essentially the state had confiscated her home in favour of the bats.

Now when I heard about this I made a mental note that should I ever have a suspicion of there being bats in my attic, I would (accidentally, you understand) leave a light on in the attic for a couple of months so as to avoid any difficulties later on. Now I have nothing against bats in particular, unlike the minister who had developed a pathological hatred of them, to put alongside her already highly developed phobia. So she would have been pleased to read this article from the Washington Post (registration required)

Thousands of bats have died at Backbone and on another nearby wind farm in Meyersdale, Pa. -- more per turbine than at any other wind facility in the world, according to researchers' estimates. The deaths are raising concerns about the impact of hundreds more turbines planned in the East, including some in western Maryland, as the wind industry steps up expansion beyond its traditional areas in the West and Great Plains.

Now this is in many ways rather fortuitous as there is a plan afoot to cover most of the local hilltops with windfarms.

So I suppose every cloud has a silver lining. My view may be ruined, but I won't have to worry about bats any more.

Hunting with hounds humane

The BBC has a report on a report that in 1969 Scottish ministers considered lifting a ban on gin traps which were considered too cruel.

Eventually they refused because of fears of an outcry from the animal "rights" lobby.

Instead they advised landowners to use more "humane" methods of culling
foxes such as hunting with dogs, shooting, snaring, poisoning or gassing.

And now ripple effects in Egypt

Following on from my post on the democratic waves washing out from newly free Afghanistan and Iraq to Syria, the BBC carries a report that the ripples have now reached Egypt.
In a country where public discussion of the president and his powers has been traditionally off-limits, activists are breaching a red line in ways that would have been unthinkable two years ago. They want to limit the president to two terms in office and to ensure that he is democratically chosen in a pluralist election.

Of course, this being the BBC, any possibility of a connection between this new found demand for democratic accountability and US Middle Eastern policy is not worthy of a mention.

If the Internet was reborn as a country, it would be Estonia

Fascinating article on the Estonian success story now undermined by the EU.

Year of the blog

Tee hee. The BBC posts an article on the year of the blog without mentioning Rathergate.

They are pathetic.