Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Harry's Place on Bush foreign policy

I thought this was worth quoting in full (by David Brown; no link as a comment to this post):

"The cold war paradigm is broken forever and the Bush conservatives in the US have figured this out already. That doesn't mean they're about to rip every alliance they have with a country that isn't governed like Belgium, but they have at least recognised the futility (not to mention danger) of administering foreign policy by proxy, acting as puppet master to a network of corrupt, oppressive and downright totalitarian client states. If September 11th taught them anything, it was that this policy will some day rebound and bite you hard.
It's still all about US national interests, so Bush-haters are not being asked to concede the altruism of Washington neo-Cons. What's unprecedented is the realisation (by some, at least) that long-term US national interests and security can only be served by spreading liberal values to regions with historical, democratic deficits. The implementation methodology includes, but is not exhausted by, military action to depose tyrants who govern failed states and pose a threat to world peace."

Bush admits can't win war on terror

When asked “Can we win?” the war on terror, Bush said, “I don’t think you can win it. But I think you can create conditions so that the — those who use terror as a tool are — less acceptable in parts of the world.”
--New York Daily News, August 30, 2004

"One of the interesting things people ask me, now that we are asking questions, is, 'Can you ever win the war on terror?' Of course you can."
Press briefing, White House, April 13, 2004

Via Harry's Place and Talking Points Memo

The White House have tried to explain, saying in essence that the President's comments on April 13th were wrong, and he's never believed you could win the war on terror'. "I don't think you can expect that there will ever be a formal surrender or a treaty signed like we have in wars past," Press spokesman Scott McClellan said. "That's what he was talking about. It requires a generational commitment to win this war on terrorism."

This is obviously nonsense on stilts. There are three options to explain what happened (ignoring the highly possible chance that Bush just meant to say the opposite on one of the occasions). Either he was wrong to say 'of course you can', or he was wrong to say 'no you can't' or something has changed in between.

Given Bush's famous ability for straight-talking, I suspect it might be the latter. The big question is therefore - what has changed to so change the President's mind between April and August? Obviously one can speculate, for example the growing realisation that -- as predicted by most intelligence agencies -- the invasion of Iraq has only increased the risk of terrorism, the rising death toll from terrorism in 2003 over 2002 (correcting earlier figures showing a fall), perhaps even the recognition that his execution of foreign policy has been 'wretched', to quote John Lewis Gaddis.

This all gives Michael Howard some optimism. When Bush's spokesman told us that Howard was banned from the White House and from meeting the President, did he only mean in some technical, formal, term? Or will he change his mind? Mike shouldn't give up hope yet.

Brown/Blair rift explodes again

From the BBC:

Mr Blair said anti-social behaviour affected many people's lives.

"It doesn't always get the headlines but if you've got really difficult people living next door or down the street..."


The War Against Terror - Arrest anyone, anytime, for anything...

This story in the Independent about the FBI's treatment of a famous American scientist is, to put it mildly, rather distressing. Luckily the jury appears to have saved the day, which is reassuring. Though do we still have them in this country? I didn't get to read a newspaper yesterday.

Gay marriage

It always thought that I would never see the debate about oppose gay marriage hit depths more ridiculous than those on Peter Cuthbertson's site, such as 'gay marriage cannot be legalized because a man cannot father a pebble' (see here).

However via Brad DeLong I find a close competitor, and from a woman giving the blessing to the Republican National Convention no less. She declares that the very idea of not opposing the idea of Dave from Detroit being able to marry Daniel from Dallas is like not opposing the Nazis.

This escalating situation reminds me of a statement of a World War II journalist by the name of Dorothy Thompson... Toronto in 1941.... “Before this epic is over, every living human being will have chosen. Every living human being will have lined up with Hitler or against him..... If he takes no side, he is on Hitler’s side. If he does not act, that is an act—for Hitler.” May I take the liberty of... applying [this statement]to... today? “Before this era is over, every living human being... will have either opposed the onslaught against the family or supported it, for if he tries to make no choice that in itself will be a choice. If we do not act in behalf of the family, that is itself an act of opposition to the family.”


It's only an analogy, the homophobes will cry! But this is difficult to accept as there are hundreds of other analogies she could have constructed, but instead she went for one about Nazis. Nice.

Update: I was wrong about it being only an analogy. She goes on to say, 'At first it may seem a bit extreme to imply a comparison between the atrocities of Hitler and what is happening in terms of contemporary threats against the family—but maybe not'. The rest of the speech is dreadful, even sad at times, as the woman says she would like to be married but no-one has asked her. Perhaps it's because of her repugnant views?


Sunday, August 29, 2004

Mother-in-Law Mike's achievement

The news that Michael Howard is banned from the White House, or even meeting President Bush rather makes him remind one of that comedian's stereotype of the 'Mother-in-Law'.

Aside from the above news, Mother-in-Law Mike has not had a good week. He was elected over IDS basically because serious Conservatives took a look at IDS and realised the man was never going to become PM. What about Mother-in-Law Mike?

Let's look at the record over the past year or so.



YouGov July 2003

Con 37
Lab 34
Lib Dem 22
Other 7

YouGov August 2004

Con 33
Lab 34
Lib Dem 23
Other 11

Ours is bigger than yours

The Sunday Times reports that the French Navy is set to be larger than the Royal Navy for the first time in one million years, or something close to that.

It's best to take this with a pinch of salt, even British-sized, as it has all the hallmarks of interested-party budget pleading. Furthermore unless the situation has changed much in the last ten years, as I recall the French navy is rather good at sailing down the cost of Africa and shelling the natives...er humanitarian intervention, and would be rather less good in a proper fight.

Which of course as the French say in the report, is all irrelevent as there isn't going to be a war between our two countries. Whatever Stephen Den Beste, or some British bloggers who should know better, or even expert Rodney Craig, who came up with the figures in the article and seems to suggest the French are our enemies, think.

Perhaps more worring is that the Royal Navy appears soon unable to do many of its previous functions without the assistance of the US Navy. This is not a problem now, but if Michael Howard becomes PM...

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Another Kerry voter

It perhaps gives us an insight into both men, but the news that as long as George Bush is President, Michael Howard will neither be allowed into the White House or to meet him, is surely more of an indictment of George Bush?

True, most decent Britons wouldn't like Michael Howard in their homes. Nor would they wish to spend time with him. But politicians are meant to be above this thing, and the idea that the 'Special Relationship' would be ended merely because the Conservatives are in power is depressing.

When this sort of anomosity occurs in everyday life there are work-arounds. Perhaps Michael and George could meet at a third friend's house, say the Elysee Palace? Or would it be best to take them out to the pub, sink a few pints and leave them to it?

Anyway perhaps it won't come to that. Howard is not expected to become PM, while there is still a chance that Bush might lose. Certainly if Michael Howard could vote, John Kerry would have another one today.

Update: One wonders how bad this would be for the Conservatives' execution of foreign policy. Probably the last example of a PM who wasn't welcome in the White House was Anthony Eden, and look how that ended.

Update 2 -- There are more details here of this extraordinary news (probably requires registration). I can remember when Neil Kinnock was pilloried in the press for only getting a few minutes with President Reagan after being made to wait. This makes that pale into insignificance.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Drunk interpreters

I promised some book reviews, but you'll have to wait a bit yet, as I decided to read all four books simultaneously and haven't finished any (I gave up on the John Lloyd book because it is desperately dull).

The biography of Anthony Eden, by DR Thorpe, is excellent. It was commissioned by his widow, Lady Avon, to revive Eden's reputation, so it is sympathetic is no surprise. I've also read every bit but the Suez bit, so the worst is yet to come. Even so the picture it portrays of Anthony Eden is so positive one almost wants to dig him up and try to get him to stand as Tory leader.

The book is also good for political anecdotes. One funny one is when Kruschchev visited Britain in 1956. Misunderstandings were rife -- when Lord Cilcennin hosted a lunch at the Painted Hall in Greenwich, the Russian foreign minister thought it was his own private residence. Kruschchev thought Holyrood House was a distant outpost for retired peasants (in fact they were senior members of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland). The culmination of this was a luncheon at Carlton Gardens, where the Foreign Office interpreter fell ill, and was replaced by one who was drunk. Lord Lambton was introduced to Kruschchev as a 'shooting lord', leading Kruschchev to believe he was about to be executed.

Things took a turn for the worse after lunch, with the interpreter even more trollied. Krushchev's first sentence was translated as 'He says he is pleased to be here but if we are pleased to have him is another matter'. When Krushchev said that Britain and Russia had much in common, the interpreter added 'don't you believe it, we haven't got 8 million prisoners in Siberia!'. More followed in a similar vein, before the interpreter was ushered out of the room. Strict instructions were given by the foreign secretary that Eden should never hear about it.

Another point of note is how attitude to divorcees have changed. Eden was the first (and still the only) divorced Prime Minister. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the egregious Geoffrey Fisher, said,
'It is a distressing thing that Anthony Eden should wish to remarry. As to the divorce itself I am sure there is no moral error on the part of Anthony Eden, it was a flat refusal by his wife to be married to a politician or live in England. Thus the stigma which attaches to Anthony Eden is not, so to speak, in the ordinary sense of a moral stigma, but if one may put it like that, an ecclesiastical stigma of departure from a true understanding of what the Church Law requires'
(my italics). The Church Times ran a leader drawing comparisons with the Abdication and declaring how far public standards had fallen since 1936. The Manchester Guardian retaliated saying that the leader 'will rather make most of us gld that we do belong to a "pagan generation".

Libertarians? Don't make me laugh...

It's a rare day when there is not a remarkable post on Samizdata.net, but today they surpass themselves.

In response to a speech by Robin Cook, in which he noted that, 'There were 30,000 raids under the Prevention of Terrorism Act last year from which less than 100 individuals were charged with offences relating to terrorism', the author has this to say:

Cook provides evidence that a proportion of those who demonstrated against the war, will continue to oppose measures that can be utilised to investigate and break up terrorist cells and sympathisers in the United Kingdom

Libertarians? I think not. I've always suspected that their libertarian instincts go little further than a wish to see inheritance tax scrapped, but such unquestioning support for seemingly ineffectual police raids is bizarre. Statist and authoritarian it seems.

About time too -- why has it been left to me?

Tory leader attacks 'PC culture'

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

A wave of relief...

swept over me this morning, after I realised that the BBC news headline, 'Thatcher arrested in coup attempt' referred to the son, and somewhere in Africa, rather than the Lady herself, and our own dear country.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Sliding further...

Hitchens (the pro-war right-winger, not the anti-war one) slides further in his latest column.

I don't know why, but recently (unless it's been about Chalabi) Hitchens has given the impression of next-to-know curiousity, instead saying things like 'I don't know, and neither reader do you'). The sames goes in this column, in which he makes no effort whatsoever to decide whether the Swift Veterans for the Unvarnished Truth are lying or not.

The rest of the piece is about the rights and wrongs of Vietnam, which really just brings to the fore Hitchens' troubles with this issue. He wants to justify his support for the Vietcong whilst defending his support for Bush's invasion of Iraq. This reduces him to idiotic comments such as:

The Vietnamese were a very civilized foe
which of course is not quite how it was. Instead of this ridiculous inability to ever admit he was wrong, I think Kerry's position is rather sound. He did his duty and fought for his country, then realised what a terrible mess it all was and spoke out about it. It's sad that American politics is so infantile that he now has to publicise it for all it's worth, but he's hardly alone here.

PCRS* VIII

Over the last few years I have -- in the face of overwhelmingly liberal consensus bias -- striven to give you a good dose of common sense on issues as diverse as asylum seekers, the poor, those on benefits, immigrants, homosexuals, the "ass-raped", degenerate political cultures, and of course the State Pension.

However there's only so much bile and hatred even I can summon forth, and back on holiday from university I have run out of ideas. Thus borrowing an idea from Right-Wing News, if there's a subject you've been wanting me to tackle or an issue you want to hear my opinion on, just ask your question in the comments section below, and I will answer the more sensible ones.

* Peter Cuthbertson Replacement Service

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Tories think workers 'cost' our country £615bn last year

And £589bn the year before.

That's the only conclusion I can draw from this Spectator piece by David Davis

Victim nation
The compensation culture costs Britain £10 billion a year. David Davis blames the human rights industry


To be fair it might not be his fault. In the piece he refers to estimates of it costing British business £10bn, not Britain, which is a little better. But the whole article smacks of hysteria - does Lord Levene, chairman of Lloyd’s of London, really believe that ‘the compensation culture is starting to plunder the UK economy’. £10bn, which presumambly is an upper estimate, is about what the economy produces in 3 days, and of course the money isn't leaving the British economy, the total cost will be much lower, particularly given the benefits, so I think he's talking rot. Libertarians, who of course believe that all regulation should be replaced by lawsuits, should be particularly outraged.

Update: Incidentally the report is not particualarly convincing. £6.8bn of the £10bn is due to motor car insurance claims, ie from personal injury caused by motor 'accidents'. Such claims are not the stuff most people think about when they hear a Tory ranting about 'compensation culture' (the ones that makes headlines, such as to criminals, aren't costed, but it looks like they account for less than £100m or so), and I suspect 'common sense' would think most of them justified. Furthermore these are paid, through higher premiums, by drivers.

Update II - Of course where there is a cost is in the administration of the process, which the report estimates to be 1/3rd of more of the total cost (ie lawyer and court fees). The solution, presumably, is more government regulation. I'm not sure if this is what Davis wants.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Redwood madness

David Blunkett's love life is in the headlines when his work as Home Secretary deserves the brickbats. I do not want to make a window into his private life.


So begins John Redwood, writing in the Telegraph. Backword Dave gives him credit, but I don't. If his private life is irrelevant to the debate, and you don't want to 'make a window' why mention it? Obviously he mentioned it to remind readers who had heard the story, and alert those who hadn't.

The problem is Redwood can't help himself. He couldn't help himself in 1993 when he attacked single mothers. He can't help himself now. The difference now is of course that we know his own behaviour is rather less whiter-that-white. From the papers -

Gail Redwood told a Sunday newspaper: "After all these years, John simply rang me up and told me it was all over - I was absolutely devastated. Now he's stopped me going back to the family house."

There are conflicting views, though the only facts we know is that Redwood was seeing Nikki Page whilst he was married, he did admit to 'unreasonable behaviour' in a court of law, and his wife was granted her divorce. It would perhaps be best if he kept quiet for some while.

Turnout and competitiveness

Michael in the comments asks whether intention to vote varies with the competitiveness of the seat, i.e. in parliamentary seats which are safe is intention to vote lower?

I don't have polling data, but certainly in the last G.E there was a relationship between the size of the winning vote (as a % of those voting) and turnout, which was turnout increased the smaller the size of winning vote (on the axis turnout is along the bottom, while winning vote share is on the y axis, each dot represents a parliamentary constituency).

.
There might be something else obvious that explains the relationship, but I haven't had time to think about it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

New poll

New poll in the Guardian, which suggests that Anthony Wells was correct in dismissing the Guardian's suggestion that 'Ukip are a permanent feature of the landscape'; their share is down from 4% to 1%.

Overall Labour lead the Tories 36% to 33% with the Libs on 22%. On those certain to vote it's a Tory lead of 39% to 33%, Libs 21%, in the entire country Labour lead 37% to 30%, Libs 21%. The Tories lead amongst women, Labour men. The country is quite heavily class split, though C1s oddly are the most Tory of all social groupings.

The NHS, Education and Law & Order (59%, 42% and 35%) are the main issues on which people say they will vote (it adds up to over 100% because you were allowed 2 or 3 choices).

A-Levels, A* grades and Es

It's school exam results time again, and so we have the so-certain-you-could-set-your-watch-by-it celebration of ever higher pass marks (incidentally good politics from Milliband - are the Tories really going to say to most of their supporters 'you're children aren't as clever as you think they are'?), and the bemoaning of falling standards by Peter Cuthbertson.

The problem identified is that some candidates spelt 'literature' wrong, in the English Literature GCSE and still got an A*. This seems ludicrous, as it was on the the front of the paper. Nevertheless it's not clear how many, if any, candidates actually were given an A* and it would probably be equally ludicrous to make it a reason not to give an A* ("This paper seemed to me to the finest paper I have ever seen on the subject, but the candidate couldn't copy 'literature' correctly, so I have given it an 'E'").

As scandalous or not as that might be, it hardly compares to the greatest modern exam scandal of our time when a candidate was marked down from a certain A or B in his General Studies A-Level to an E, because of left-wing political bias. I'll let the Marking Martyr speak:

If these tests are really vetting for political views, it is a disgrace, and I have to wonder what the markers of the second and third papers were thinking. Arguing for private education and against multi-culturalism will not appeal to the Guardianistas who dominate teaching and exam boards. But that isn't the point. Whatever views expressed, they should be marked fairly, on grounds of writing, knowledge and ability. This does not appear to have been what happened in this case.


With standards falling so quickly, I doubt our children learn verb conjugation anymore, particularly in the English 'Litriture' GCSE. If they did however we clearly have a new irregular one:

He passed his exams.
You only got an A* because of falling standards
I'm a victim of political bias.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Is it time for a humanitarian invasion?

A read of human rights abuses taking place in Iraq at present, for example here, or the fact the country might be led by a mass-murder(see here, though he, unsurprisingly, denies it), or the well-documented (see posts earlier) fact that there are thousands of deaths a month happening, makes one wonder whether it is not time for another humanitarian invasion?

Holiday snaps

I wouldn't normally condone showing this sort of thing, but if you will go on holiday with Berlusconi I think it's probably justified.

Cherie and Silvio

Here's the liberator of Iraq in fancy dress

The others are worth a look too. Here's an amusing Italian press story about the British press's coverage of the story, which I used google to traslate.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Unemployment

It's August, and the Sunday Telegraph has clearly run out of news, so it runs this story:

The number of unemployed would almost double if people on incapacity benefit were included, new figures show. The statistical fudge is particularly common in Tony Blair's own constituency, as Rajeev Syal reports.


It's not that this is not an important story, it's just not news. The academics the piece refers to have released this report every year for about a decade, and the Guardian (among others) covered it in May.

To summarise -- the unemployment figures, at least as measured by the number of claimants of benefit, have been kept low by a massive transfer of people from being unemployed to on invalidity or sickness benefit. The reasearchers estimate about 1m of the 2.5m people on the latter benefits are actually looking for work.

This is a serious issue, and if you read the report (it goes into ward-by-ward detail -- the old industrial areas and cities might have up to 11% of the workforce wrongly categorised) it's hard to deny there's a problem. But the Telegraph's attempts to blame Labour are comic - it was under Thatcher's premiership that the vast bulk of the extra invalidity claims arised.


Sunday, August 15, 2004

Good news about Iraq

At last something we can all celebrate (this is rather late, but it was only told to me last night)

Iraq 4: 2 Portugal

Yes, that's right. Iraq beat Portugal at soccer in the Olympics. At it wasn't a joke Portuguese side -- it contained Ronaldo, and three other main-team internationals.

Great Britain of course doesn't not enter a team, ostensibly because it only has English, Welsh, Scottish and N.Irish teams.

Friday, August 13, 2004

UKIP where are you?

I got a new Switch card this morning. Well I say 'Switch card' but in fact it has lost its switch logo, and now has only a Maestro logo. This it appears is to bring us into line with other countries, most notably European ones.

Another facet of Britishness disappears.

Expert says maths shouldn't be compulsory after 14

...and I think he's probably right, though what with foreign languages not being compulsory after 14 from this term, one does wonder what children will be learning?

ps Though I think there should be a minimum standard and if people don't reach it they should keep trying until they do.

Howard on crime

Michael Howard in his keynote speech a few days ago said that

1. Crimes reported to the police is the best measure of the crime rate.
2. Violent crime is the most important category.
3. When he was Home Secretary he cut crime.

I present this chart without comment.

.

Interesting things in today's Economist

* In October 2001 the US produced a list of 22 "most-wanted terrorists". Only 3 have been captured or killed.

* 8% of the troops in the British army are foreigners

* The Conservative Party, or the Statist Party as perhaps we should call it, says of the Lib Dem's plan to abolish the DTI, "the Lib Dems don't undetstand that you need a loud and authorative voice for business as the heart of the government".

* The extension of the congestion charge to K&C might actually reduce revenues, as residents will get a resident discount, and they make up a large proportion of the people who currently pay the congestion charge.


Thursday, August 12, 2004

I'm a millionaire in Turkish lira

It sees almost cruel, or certainly at least too easy, to make fun of the Right's poor grasp of economics. But let's face it, they're quite keen on this sort of thing:

From today's ASI blog (and an employee)

There is one sole aspect of being in London that has disappointed me. $1.80 of my hard earned money bought me £1, instantly cutting my wealth in half


It's hard, isn't it? I remember going to Italy in 1999, and thinking that once one was 2,000 times richer, but these days only 1,800 times. My wealth, going from 2,000 times to 1,800 times, was under threat.

Update: A reader writes, "Presumambly the ASI will be advocating our joining the euro - we will all get 40% richer immediately".

Iraq update

Interesting table in the NYT by the Brookings Institute.

Good and bad news (though mainly bad). Most shocking is that 400 non-combatants were killed in April, 200 in July (this does not include 'insurgents' who have been killed -- these are running at 1000-2000 a month). The mass graves go on.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Howard's speech again

The other thing of note about Howard's awful speech was just how much it was old news. There was nothing, except not implementing the Macpherson report recommendations on Stop & Search, that hasn't been in a Conservative speech before. Or indeed by David Blunkett, which is why it won't do the Conservatives any good in the polls either.

Here's Ann Widdecombe in May 2001

We will start by restoring the cuts in police numbers that have occurred since 1997. After four years of neglect, the Government are claiming that they can increase the number of officers to 130,000. Our changes to current spending plans do not affect the Home Office, so of course we will match that target.

...Other things are driving officers out of the force and making attracting new recruits difficult. ....

Not least the professionalism and dedication to duty shown by so many thousands of officers. But morale isn't helped by directives from on high and constant political correctness...The kind of political correctness that prevents the police from using the powers at their disposal fairly but firmly...Piling on new bureaucracy, the kind of bureaucracy that some people don't want to talk to you about. That keeps the police behind their desks rather than out in communities and on our streets preventing crime and catching criminals.

Or Wee Willie Hague in the same month:

"Our police stand depleted and demoralised...Our criminal justice system puts the rights of criminals before those of their victims...Our streets feel less safe because thousands of convicted criminals have been let out early by this Government so that they are free to commit more crime...Since January 1999, Labour have let out 35,000 convicted criminals before they have even served half of their sentences...
These are not petty crooks. They include 41 sex offenders, 8 attempted murderers, more than 3,000 burglars, nearly 5,000 people convicted of drug dealing and drug trafficking and as many again convicted wounding or causing grievous and actual bodily harm....Of course the Conservatives lost the following election by a landslide. "

Or even in 2000

"So let me start by utterly rejecting the defeatist nonsense that says crime is just a function of economic and social trends. For that is the constant excuse of a complacent establishment. They talk of crime as an abstract, dismiss victims as mere statistics on a page of a sociology thesis, and are always looking for someone other than criminals to blame for crime."


Amazon purchases

I've never ordered more than one book at a time from Amazon, but spurred on by the thought of free delivery I did on Monday. I didn't seem to get free delivery, despite adding more and more books, so obviously I was misinformed there. But I have to say what an enjoyable sight a huge parcel of books is on your front door in the morning.

Anyway I might even try some book reviews. The books I bought were

What the Media Are Doing to Our Politics, by John Lloyd
Eden, by D.R. Thorpe
The Truth about Markets, by John Kay
Not on the label - the truth about what really goes into the food on your plate, by F. Lawrence.

One other thing Johann Hari links to this blog about global warming, and calls it the most 'important issue in the world'. This makes a nice change for Harry's Place, as last time they linked to a story on the issue they linked to Melanie Phillips!

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Useless Howard speaks

There's not much point in wasting much time on Michael Howard's terrible speech about crime today but a few points are worth making:

1. "mumbo-jumbo". It seems almost a law that a speech that criticise something for "mumbo-jumbo" is going to be useless. It essentially means the speaker can't be bothered to understand what he is criticising.

2. "The most reliable crime statistics – those crimes actually recorded by the police". This statement is silly, and for a former home secretary to say it is even sillier.

3. It would be nice when condemning the increase in violent crime he had reminded us that during his tenure as home secretary, on the figures he prefers, the crimes he thinks matter (violent crime) rose by about 20%.

4. This bit is plain weird. "The things many politicians have been too frightened to say for far too long...Why do some parents allow their children out until the early hours?".

I could go on, but it's too dispiriting.

Tory leader demands election landslide for Galloway's Party

Howard urging return of respect, claims the BBC.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

What will Christopher Hitchens say?

Iraqi courts, according to CNN, have issued an arrest warrant for Ahmed Chalabi, former darling of the neo-conservatives and Christopher Hitchen's mate, on suspicion on counterfeiting. Even more concerning they have issued an arrest warrant for Salem Chalabi, who is in charge of Saddam Hussein's trial, on suspicion of murder.

Is this true? Anything out of Iraq has to be viewed as suspect until proven a thousand times. But as that great Sun journalist might have said (if it was over something like a proposal to give money to poor children's parents, admittedly), 'you couldn't make it up'.



Bushism

Via Oliver Kamm find this amusing Bushism,

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we," he said. "They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."


Incidentally Oliver also quotes Reagan as having misspoken in this story, "Before that, President Reagan - making a point about the ease with which his adminstration had pulled together - declared that he and his vice-president had had 'sex', when he meant to say 'successes'.

I think actually it was George Bush Senior, and 'setbacks'.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Hitchens deserts the Tories

Now even Peter Hitchens says he won't be voting Conservative:

The failure of the overrated Michael Howard was entirely predictable...I drop my normal objections to assisted suicide...the [Tory party] should be kindly, gently, helped into oblivion. Don't, whatever you do, prolong its agony by voting for it.

Update: Hitchens is pretty explicit what needs to happen. He returns to the issue of the Tories in today's Mail on Sunday, declaring they need a senior figure to do a 'Gang of Four' and split the party. He adds Howard is a 'turn-off', his colleagues 'duds', and backbenchers are 'talentless holes in the air'.

Friday, August 06, 2004

American Air Force wants Congress to approve new jets

Is what this interesting-ish story about their fighter's capabilities should be headlined.

YouGov US poll

Some interesting things from the Economist/YouGov US opinion poll (warwning - pdf):

* Kerry leads Bush 48% to 42%
* There's little difference if you only include the 85% or so who are registered (which seems sensible), Kerry leads Bush 48% to 43%
* Surprisingly if you include those definite to vote (about 65% of the population) there's only a small difference, Kerry leads Bush 50% to 42%.
* There is a huge sex difference. Amongst males, Bush leads 47% to 44%. Among females, Kerry leads (and this is staggering) 52% to 36%. By age the older you get the less you like Kerry.
* By 60% to 36%, and with a majority in all ages and for both males and females, Americans are dissatisfied with the way the country is going. This is not an optimistic country!
* 48% to 43% oppose civil unions for homosexuals, 58% to 35% marriage.
* There is huge support (61% to 29%) for greater Federal government control of healthcare.
* Abortion is supported by 37% of the population (to 53%) even when it is merely because the woman does not want a child out of wedlock, and doesn't want to get married. Majorities support it for most other 'better' reasons.
* Finally there is an interesting experiment in questioning. They ask half the sample:

There is a type of medical research that involves using special cells, called stem cells, that are obtained from human embryos. Some people favor stem cell research, saying the embryos otherwise would be discarded and that this research could lead to
breakthroughs for treating serious diseases. Other people oppose this type of research – they say it uses cells from potentially viable human embryos and that this research can be done on animals or by using other types of cells instead. What about you? Do you favor stem cell research, oppose it, or neither favor nor oppose it?

and the other half

There is a type of medical research that involves using special cells, called stem cells, that are obtained from human embryos. Some people oppose this type of research – they say it uses cells from potentially viable human embryos and that this
research can be done on animals or by using other types of cells instead. Other people favor stem cell research, saying the embryos otherwise would be discarded and that this research could lead to breakthroughs for treating serious diseases. What about you? Do you favor stem cell research, oppose it, or neither favor nor oppose it?

The results are basically the same. People favour it, but slightly more after the second question, and markedly more in the case of the over 65s!


Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Spanish have effective final say over US navy docking at British base

What will the usual suspects make of this story?

A US navy destroyer, USS McFaul, was going to dock in Gibraltar as part of the 300th anniversary celebrations. However in order to not upset the Spanish it no longer is.

This seems the opposite view of the Labour government, which according to the Telegraph article are playing hardball with the Spanish, because of cooling relations over Iraq.

Bank problems

Does anyone know why banks can't temporarily block your Switch card, e.g. if you are 90% sure you've left it in the office they could just block it until next morning, instead of making you cancel it, and thus be five days without any money?

Also whilst I was thinking of reasons why this is not possible, I remembered those old (and almost extinct) credit card swipe machines, which took a physical imprint of the card details. And what I also want to know is if you lost your credit card back when those were the main way of validating them, how did you stop someone spending vast amounts of money on it?

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Troops out now?

In this post Johann Hari notes that Noam Chomsky seems to have a myopic view of Iraqi opinion polls. Chomsky says that non-Kurdish areas want coalition troops out immediately, and thus they should. Hari points out that logically therefore he should support the troops staying in Kurdish areas.

Of course the same point can be made to Hari. Does he support the immediate withdrawal of western troops from the Sunnia and Shia areas, which is what all opinion polls show is the view of the Iraqi people? A few months' ago he said that he did - now I am not so sure.

Furthermore he chastises Chomsky for not taking account of opinion polls that showed that the Iraqi people wanted their country invaded and Saddam overthrown. But here is surely another problem -- did the opinion polls show that if you exclude the Kurds? Usually there are good reasons for not excluding parts of the population, but if Hari thinks it is ok to do it with respect to the troops out question, he can't really disallow it on whether the war was desired by the Iraqis.

I should point out, as I have done in the past, that I think this day-to-day analysis of opinion polls is rather silly.

Young Republicans talk about the President

Hans, 19 (My italics)

President George W. Bush is a man for our time. I will never forget his speech atop the pile of rubble at Ground Zero after September 11. Each president has a defining moment, and that was his I think. President Bush has been firm and resolute in his execution of the war on terror, and he has united Americans behind simple patriotic values in the process. America is a better country with George W. Bush at the helm. His voice is reassuring and the moral strength and policy expertise of his administration is perhaps unparalleled in American history. President Bush is able to speak in simple ways that touch young and old alike. For a young person like me, President Bush is a constant reminder that America is still the land of the free and the home of the brave.


Princella, 20

I appreciate the genuineness of our president. He puts on no airs or “fronts.” What you see is what you get, and while some people criticize his “cowboy-esque” mannerisms, I am drawn to the authentic, natural way that he chooses to relate to the common, everyday American. He can sit in a chair and discuss foreign policy with you, and in the same seat converse with you about sports over a cheeseburger. He is a loyal being and wants to inspire not only the minds, but also the hearts of every American

Howard not trusted on tax

It appears

"twice as many people thought that if the Tories did win, taxes would be higher than expected if Labour was in power. So much for the traditional view that the Tories are the party of low taxation"

according to a new opinion poll in the FT.

Terrorist information three years old

So that answers my question earlier. The terrorist information, revealed yesterday, comes from 2000 and 2001.

Stephen Pollard has a hissy fit

And gives a revealing insight into what he thinks of his Times column (see last line)

Get a life. Get some perspective. Get some sense. I didn't suggest cycling should be banned. I didn't say no one should watch it. In fact I didn't propose anything. I made what, in the real world, was a rather unimportant observation about my personal taste.

Can we "C" no more of him?

The Butler report, bad though it was to the PM's reputation, did have one moment of complete inanity, which was when it said that John Scarlett should be appointed head of MI6.

Sir Menzies Campbell is surely correct in calling for his resignation after yesterday's relevations.

Terror warnings

The heightened terror warnings in the US, which fortunately don't seem to apply to the UK, are another sign, in addition to the growing number of casualties from terrorism mentioned two posts below, that we are losing the war on terror.

On the specifics they seem strange. If one was a terrorist with any sense you would plan an attack on an American city other than New York, and on targets other than the New York Stock Exchange. When I was in the city in March I visted the NYSE and to put it mildly, it is heavily protected. The same, to a lesser degree, goes for the rest of the city.

Contrast that to most other American cities, which anecdotal and other evidence suggest are not particularly well guarded against terrorist activity.

A similar line of thinking applies to the UK, where an attack on (say) the City of London would have much less chance of success than (say) the prospects of one on Birmingham, or Manchester.

Opinion polls

Looking at the latest US opinion poll one sees this remarkable finding:

2. I'd like you to rate the chances that you will vote in the presidential election in November: Are you absolutely certain to vote, will you probably vote, are the chances 50-50, or less than that?

Don't think
Certain Probably Chances Less than will vote No
to vote vote 50/50 50/50 (vol.) opin.
8/1/04 RV 85 9 4 1 1 *

85% of registered voters say they are certain to vote! This seems much higher than your average turnout in a Presidential election.

Then I found that only 70% of US voters are registerd, which brings you back down to a more likely turnout of 60% of all voters.

Also this question asked the (diminishing) band of Nader supports who they would support if their candidate dropped out. Remarkably it's split evenly between Bush and Kerry.

Net Leaned Vote, Registered Voters:

Write in Other Neither Would No
Bush Kerry Nader (vol.) (vol.) (vol.) not vote op.
8/1/04 45 52 0 * 2 1 1
7/25/04 49 48 0 * 2 1 1
6/20/04 45 53 0 * 1 1 *
5/23/04 47 49 * * 1 1 1
4/18/04 49 48 * * 2 1 *

Monday, August 02, 2004

Oliver Kamm: An Apology

In the comments below I attribute to Oliver Kamm the following statements:

'victory in Iraq' and the 'victory in the war against Terror'

Oliver has pointed out that:

"Incidentally, I don't believe I've ever used the phrases you attribute to me...Might an apology be in order for your having sacrificed accuracy for a fluent one-liner? " [for those who need the bit in between the ... see the comments below]

He's right. The post I was dimly recollecting, in fact went like this:

"These figures ...[referring to US government figures on terrorists casualties] are...nonetheless a useful criterion for assessing the outcome of Green Party deliberations. Messily, with setbacks and moral compromises and the enduring risk that if our enemies find the opportunity they will do something truly terrible to our citizens, we are defending ourselves.The strategy adopted by the US and British governments is right and far-sighted in countering threats posed by forces as nihilistic and destructive as any faced by western civilisation in the past century"


So not victory, but 'messily defending ourselves', which is a rather different story. Nevertheless in itself it's an interesting piece. The metric Oliver (at least in this article) used to decide we are defending ourselves was the US government's tally of the number of terrorist attacks, which they claimed was the lowest in 30 years.

On this thought it appears things were not what they first seeemed. Oliver continues:

"The apology, unfortunately, should be from me. My inferences from the BBC report were unjustified, as it is now (10 June) clear that the report relied on flawed data that undercounted the number of terrorist incidents and fatalities."


Why the apology? It appears that rather than the lowest in 30 years, as the Administration originally claimed they were the highest in 20 years. The Admnistration puts it down to a clerical error.

Anyway as a useful criteria, it's all rather depressing. In other words, we aren't defending ourselves, messily or otherwise, we are losing.

Guess who?

"Charles Kennedy has unquestionably done much to enhance his party’s claims to be taken seriously"

"The emergence of the Liberals as a serious force"

Click here to find out.

In fact it's a remarkable article. He's much, much, more optimistic about the Liberal Democrat's electoral chances than I would be.

But still congratulations to him. It's an admirable article which reminds us that governments of all political shades contain MPs with differing opinions on major issues, and they have to compomise on them in order to present a manifesto.

(Source - comments below).

Mediocrity Squared

What better example of mediocrity of British political leadership could we have than the news that the Prime Minister is spending his holiday at the holiday home of Cliff Richard, an ageing 1950s pop-star, and the leader of the Opposition is spending his holiday with Anne Robinson, an ageing 1990s quiz-show host?

I haven't been able to confirm rumours that Charles Kennedy is off to Ibiza with Kate Moss and Lindsey Lohan, but if true, it's a definite reason to vote for the Liberal Democrats.

PCRS* VI

From destroying the family to destroying Busty Belinda?

I must admit to having a soft-spot for the latest blow-up Busty Belinda 'love' doll. Aimed at giving sex-starved men the experience of 'marital loving', it comes with full-motion flexible arms and legs, triple entry action, and 'take me now' eyes. Despite costing anywhere from £50 to a couple of hundred pounds, reports are that men are buying them in their droves. Some are even on a waiting list.

What has this got to do with politics? Very little...until one thinks of all those 'two men in a relationship is morally equivalent to a man and a woman', and that 'anal sex is on a par with heterosexual sex', activists who must meet every purchase of Busty Belinda with fury and despair.

Well done Sex-Toys USA for helping so many men deliver a sweet snub to their pretensions, and a refutaton to their ideas.

* Peter Cuthbertson Replacement Service

Sunday, August 01, 2004

More Mandy trouble?

I was on holiday when Blair decided to appoint Peter Mandelson as one of Britain's European Commissioners and thus missed the news.

Today's Observer suggests that Mandelson may be in more financial scandal, this time having rented a flat in Holland Park off a man who is alleged to have been involved in a Coup d'Etat in Equatorial Guineau.

Obviously details are sketchy, and it's quite possible an unfounded smear, but the other characters who have had connections with the man, Sir (!) Mark Thatcher and Jeffrey Archer, hardly inspire you with confidence.

I personally find the decision to award Mandelson the job of European Commissioner baffling and wrong. It's baffling because in the run up to a referendum on Britain's place in Europe the pro-European side need a popular and trusted figure representing Britain in Europe, which Mandelson plainly isn't. It's wrong also because there shouldn't be a political comeback if you've resigned twice from the Cabinet. In other walks of life, say school teaching or being a postman, it would never be allowed to have to leave your job twice for serious misdemeanours, and get a third chance.


New opinion poll

Labour 32%, Conservatives 31%, Libs 24%, others 13%, according to Mori in the Independent on Sunday.

In addition to the slender lead the poll is good news for Labour.

MORI's polling also shows a strong recovery in perceptions of the economy and of public services, with the electorate on balance expecting education, policing and the NHS to improve over the next year.

Furthermore it's not such good news for the Tories, with Michael Howard's personal rate continuing to slide.

In January, his "satisfied" rating exceeded "dissatisfied" by 8 points. His rating turned negative in April, with a 2-point net "dissatisfied" rating, which increased to 12 points in June and stands at 16 points now.