Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Have you noticed how American bloggers always refer to their armed forces as 'we', as in 'We will hit them with a cruise missile attack, then we'll move in with two pincer movements' etc, while British bloggers tend to refer to 'the army' or so on, e..g 'The air force will bomb the runway, then the marines will move in'?

I was trying to decide why. At first I thought maybe it was because in the war on Iraq the Americans will be doing all the work, hence 'we', while the British will only be bit part players. However I don't think during the Falklands most Brits would say 'we'. Then I thought perhaps Americans were just more patriotic, and the armed forces are Americans' armed forces, whereas in Britain they are the Queen's armed forces, and we are more cynical about this sort of thing. That may be the reason, but I'm not convinced. Perhaps a better explanation is that Americans really think this is a fight to death -- like world war II. I can image the British saying 'we really hit them hard tonight' during that war. To most Britons this is an unnecessary war and so saying 'we' seems somewhat ridiculous.

Conservative Party Update

I fear this Telegraph link won't work so if you go to the site and read the story 'Tories in retreat over sacked aide' you will know what I am talking about.

However, you don't need to do that 'cause I will paraphrase. The Quiet Man sacked his Head of Campaigns Stephen Gilbert last week, but told him he should stay on until the day after the May local elections. Clearly that gave Gilbert a great incentive to do his job well, and it appears the grass-roots of the party have complained about it. Now TQM's aides say that Gilbert might stay on after the elections.

The Telegraph itself put it perfectly a few day's ago:

"Imagine how the main evening news might look in a month's time. There would be footage of our men in action; jubilant scenes, perhaps, as John Simpson liberates Kirkuk; then, with crashing bathos, we would cut to Andrew Marr outside Conservative Central Office, telling us that Boodle is now supporting Coodle, because he has heard from Doodle that Foodle plans to give his job to Hoodle. Voters would conclude - and who could blame them? - that the Tories had given up any interest in running the country."

Very interesting article in the New York Review of Books about the right and wrong way to oppose a war on Iraq. The wrong way ;

" to deny that the Iraqi regime is particularly ugly, that it lies somewhere outside the range of ordinary states, or to argue that, however ugly it is, it doesn't pose any significant threat to its neighbors or to world peace. Perhaps, despite Saddam's denials, his government is in fact seek-ing to acquire nuclear weapons. But other governments are doing the same thing, and if or when Iraq succeeds in developing such weaponsóso the argument continuesówe can deal with that through conventional deterrence, in exactly the same way that the US and the Soviet Union dealt with each other in the cold war years. "

The right way;

"to oppose the war is to argue that the present system of containment and control is working and can be made to work better. This means that we should acknowledge the awfulness of the Iraqi regime and the dangers it poses, and then aim to deal with those dangers through coercive measures short of war. But this isn't a policy easy to defend, for we know exactly what coercive measures are necessary, and we also know how costly they are."

Clearly nothing will persuade some in the pro-war camp -- those (who seem in the majority) who appear to want a war not for the 'good' reasons, ie. to improve the lot of the Iraqi people or to neutralise the threat of Saddam to his nieighbours, but merely to show the might of American power and to obtain revenge for September 11th. Also such analysis provides cold comfort for those 'old Europeans', for it was them who have made the containment regime less effective than it ought to have been. For those in neither camp however it does suggest a way in which Iraq can be dealt with.

Also in the NYRB is this excellent article on Bush's tax cuts. Whether you support Bush on Iraq or not, it is very difficult to see how anyone could see any merits in his economic policy, if you can call it a policy,

Monday, February 24, 2003

Phillip Stephens in today's FT says similar things about IDS as I was thinking, except I'm less sure Mr Portillo is a member of substance (let us recall again ""If any of you have got an A-Level, it is because you have worked for it. Go to any other country, and when you have got an A-Level, you have bought it")

"In retrospect, we should not be surprised by the latest turn of events. After the 2001 general election defeat the Tory party had a choice. It could have elected as leader Kenneth Clarke or Michael Portillo, politicians of substance willing to face up to uncomfortable realities. But Mr Duncan Smith's victory then told us that the activists wanted the quiet life - deluding themselves that the country will one day rediscover that it likes the nasty party after all. It will not. One day the Conservative party will elect a leader who shares the liberal common sense of the British people. Until then it is doomed to irrelevance."

Sunday, February 23, 2003

The Conservative Party is at it again. According to reports, The Quiet Man has authorised his supporters (all five of them?) to call Michael Portillo 'insane' and 'mad' (now he notices -- surely the latter's two speeches in the 1990s, one, saying that if European governments didn't agree with us he would threaten them with SAS assault and two, that only in England did people pass exams without bribing the examiners, must have told him that). John Bercow says there will be a leadership challenge soon, that man with funny hair says, oh blah blah blah -- read it yourself. Essentially though IDS is heading the way of William Hague, just without an election defeat under his belt.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Well, well. Last week it was 'poor old Turkey being left defenceless by those nasty cheese-eating surrender monkeys'. Now, the US is threatening to cut off its long-standing aid programme because the Turks are relucantant to allow their country to be used for an invasion of Iraq.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

There's something strange going on with the opionin polls. Mori (see below) and ICM, are reporting falling Labour support but a still-large lead over the Conservatives. However in today's Telegrpah YouGov say there is only a 1% lead (I can't link to it I'm afraid as I have just given up with the Telegraph's website) and in The Times a few days ago Populous had a similar story to tell.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Peter Cuthbertson, the nationally famous blogger, questions whether I feel the same way about Jacques Chirac's outburst at the Bulgarians and the Hungarians as I did about the US Congressmen's attack on the French, i.e is it 'racist hysteria'? (I would answer in the comments section, but it currently isn't working)

Certainly I feel that mycomment is justified, although perhaps 'xenophobic hysteria' would have been better phrased. Incidentally I don't know whether Peter knows, but Congressman Pete King, a major player in this story, is a notorious IRA supporter, so God knows what view on morality he brings to the play. At least I suppose he knows what he is talking about when he condems international terrorism.

In answer to Peter's question however, it's pretty simple, of course I condemn Jacques Chirac's outburst. Why wouldn't I? Chirac's a typical right-wing nationalist politician whose views seem to me to be pretty much like many British Conservatives. I think he has the right view on Bush's plan to attack and occupy Iraq, i.e. it's wrong, but I don't agree with him on everything or even most things.

Peter also quotes David Frum (an ex-Bush scriptwriter who for some reason is now seen as a political authority) as saying he read Jacques Chirac's outburst as 'waging economic war' on US allies. I think he has a case, but I don't understand how he can think that. David Frum, like Peter Cuthbertson, believes the EU is an economic sloth heading for disaster. Refusing to let someone join it can't be 'economic warfare' in their eyes, it can only be economic liberation.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

The march in London seems to have generated some strange responses in the blog world. Peter Cuthbertson thinks that everyone on the march (and I presume anyone who opposes the war in the country at large) is a moron. Chris Betram, who says he is opposed to the war, brings up the hoary old argument that the protest will give comfort to Saddam. One often hears this when there is the threat of war in the air, but it is unclear what is meant by it. For a start as an expression of British democracy, which let's face it has has hardly been very evident in this whole war saga, presumably it will annoy the dictator Saddam, who as we know hates democracy. More fundamentally, where does this argument end? If Tony Blair threatened to nuke North Korea, would protesting against that be criticized on the grounds it would give comfort to Kim Jong-il? Is no protest allowed in case it gives succour to our enemies? What makes Chris's comment stranger still is the link below shows clearly why Rumsfeld (who is one of the driving forces behind this war) can't be trusted, and lays clear the hypocrisy in the west's view that Tony Blair (who can't be blamed for this) repeated when talking yesterday of the million who have died in Saddam's wars.

All in all the pro-war camp have the 'debate' the wrong way around. It is not the anti-war protesters' job to give reasons why we shouldn't invade and occupy Iraq, it is the pro-war protesters (and if you look at many US sites you will see that the term 'pro-war', so often misleading, is very apt here) to give reasons why we should. Sadly so far all we have had is Colin Powell's half-truths to the UN and the Senate, and our PM sounding ever-so-slightly deranged yesterday.

The case for war, at least for the UK, is fading every day.

ps More blog news. Peter Briffa seems to think that a million people isn't many, given 70,000 watched Man U play Arsenal. Funnily back in September he seemd quite excited when the Countryside Alliance got 400,000.

Friday, February 14, 2003

The Bush supporters are getting ever more desperate in their attempt to defend his economic record. CalPundit expertly destroys one such attempt in the National Review Online.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

The racist hysteria of the US Congress is pretty funny. Because a country disagrees with their foreign policy they are demanding a trade boycott. I think this exemplfies beautifully how the UK needs to throw our lot in with Europe, because rest assured if something similar to America invadingGrenada, or tryingto be even-handed in the Falklands happens again, it will be us who get the abuse.

Monday, February 10, 2003

Is Nato finished? It certainly looks that way, although a fudge remains likely. However it clearly will never be the same again as probably isn't long for this world. What of the EU? The EU is likely to survive given foreign policy unity has never been its strong point, and so the disarray shown among EU leaders (remember the EU public is pretty solidly anti-war unliike the American public who are split) probably won't have much of a long-term impact.

Robert Harris writing last year in The Telegraph correctly banned the use of the Macmillan quote, 'EDBE', but it is quite remarkable how thanks to the events of the past year, Tony Blair, who only recently was speaking of Britain's 'destiny' in Europe, is currently coming close to splitting Europe down the middle. Of course you could argue, as the WSJ did, that this is proof that Britian can be influential in Europe without cutting its ties to the US. However I don't think this is quite the influence the Europhiles, sill reeling from the news about Woy, craved.

Sunday, February 09, 2003

It's not got much coverage (that I've seen) but the latest Mori opinion poll voting figures are pretty satisfactory for Labour and pretty dismal for the Lib Dems, and less so the Tories.

"MORI's new voting intention figures based on all are 27% Tory -(-2 on our December figures), 44% Labour (+1) and 20% for the LibDems (-3). When we look at the views of the 51% who say they are absolutely certain to vote, the Tories move up to 31%, while Labour drops slightly, to 40% and the Lib Dems tick up to 22%."

It's difficult to guage how much emphasis to put on the 'certain to vote' poll as opposed to the more normal 'all electorate' poll. To some extent it depends on how much the 'certain to vote' people change in composition and size from now to the election, and how accurate their 'certain to vote' description is. I'd imagine that the most accurate (least unaccurate?) result would be somewhere between the two, probably nearer the 'certain to vote' position. So my best estimate would be that the Tories are about 12% behind Labour, with the Lib Dems stuck down at 20%.

This is not good for the Tories -- at this stage in a parliament the opposition should be ahead, not 10% behind. It also puts them (on the certain to vote measure) worset than at the last election, even though Labour have had numerous problems over the last few months. For the Lib Dems I fear it just means they are electorally irrelevant and the polls showing them close to overtaking the Tories were rogue. For Labour, as I said, it is all pretty good news. The rest of the poll, looking at voter concerns, suggests there may be problems ahead, but for now Labour seem certain of another landslide election victory.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

David Aaronovitch has the transcript of Tony Benn's interview with Saddam Hussein. It's unreal. Now, which will be the first blog to completely miss the point and give it a tedious and hysterical 'Fisk'?

Monday, February 03, 2003

The Ft-se All Share, the widest measure of the UK stock market, is lower in real terms than it was in 1969. In fact it is lower in real terms than it was in 1900 as well. This of course does not mean shares have been a bad investment, as it does not include dividends, nor does it mean that the capitalisation of the UK corporate sector is less than it was in 1900, as there are many more shares around than there were in 1900 or 1969. But it does mean an investor who didn't reinvest his dividends would be sitting on a real loss when adjusted for inflation.

Saturday, February 01, 2003

I was leaning towards supporting the forthcoming assault on Iraq for three reasons. One it's going to happen, so the sooner the better. Two, the French are against it. Three, Saddam Hussein has nasty weapons. Unfortunately those who know much better than I just say the third point ain't so. Furthermore if you look at the report, Bush and Blair have been lying, or at the very least have very poor intelligence, about certain Iraqi facilities having weapons.

I thought this was quite funny from the Assasinated Press (must be a sister firm to the Associated Press...