Saturday, July 30, 2005

Congratulations to the Metropolitan Police

After a rather disastrous start, it appears the Met (and the SAS, according to the Guardian) have got all five suspects (assuming they're the right people, but I have no reason to believe otherwise), which appears a fine policing job.

This sterling work raises the tantalising prospect that this whole episode could be dealt with far quicker and with far less loss of life than we hoped. The Police have said everyone needs to remain vigilant for more attacks, and it would be silly to believe that we have seen the last of them. Nevertheless there is also no particular reason to believe that there are hundreds of potential suicide bombers out there.

The next few months will be crucial. One of the best indicators of how likely a terrorist attack is in the future seems to me to be how long it has been since the last one. New Yorkers on the whole don't expect a terrorist attack in the next few weeks because there hasn't been one for four years. This has been broadly true of all the other recent atrocities. Londoners' hopes of something similar were dashed on the 21st July, but maybe now there is some light.

Friday, July 29, 2005

The end of an era

Another political giant retires.

Raids in Notting Hill

Police raiding properties in Notting Hill, about 5 mins walk from my house. It sounds like a huge terror network stalks the streets of the area. No-one is safe. If had a family, or was a jittery American banker, I'd be packing my bags, selling up at a hugely discounted price to ensure a quick sale.

Is 'sir" Ian Blair a blogger?

Shouting your mouth off without full posession of the facts, attacking the police who are only doing their job in difficult situations, it all fits.

Or perhaps he's just a little bit embarassed that the country's 2nd largest police force looks more comptent than his own?

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Global competition not quite

Excellent article in the FT by Michael Lind on the myths of economic competition. Here's the link, it might be subscriber only. Anyway Lind's argument is as follows:

You often see something like this:

In today's global economy, any job can be performed anywhere. In order to compete in a global labour market, all students in advanced industrial countries need to be highly trained in science and mathematics. In order to compete in the global economy, the advanced industrial nations must downsize generous welfare states.

It's all basically false. First, most jobs, particularly in the service sector, need to be performed near where they are demanded, such as nursing or house-building. Indeed it appears McKinsey found 89% of service sector jobs were not outsourceable. Second, the largest growing sectors are things like nursing, which don't need advanced mathematics. Furthermore, there is no evidence that generous welfare states inhibit growth.

IRA armed campaign over

Phew! Now let's hope all these nasty bombs stop.

Conservatives and root causes

Peter Cuthbertson finds the root causes of for "Happy Slapping", and the blame is laid at the door of everyone who has ever voted Labour since Hugh Gaitskell's era. Not the thugs who carry it out, but millions of decent, hard-working, men and women. Can there ever be a decent Right?

New global warming deal

This is going to enrage a lot of people. In fact just about everyone, I think.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

"Human" Robot

has been invented by the Japanese. According to the BBC:

She has flexible silicone for skin rather than hard plastic, and a number of sensors and motors to allow her to turn and react in a human-like manner.
She can flutter her eyelids and move her hands like a human. She even appears to breathe

Rumour has it she's about to set up a world-trade institute.

Carnage on the underground

ABC news has some chilling pictures of the damage done to the Underground trains and the bombs that didn't go off. It appears, according to the Guardian, that the British Press have been asked not to publicise these images (though they are showing some of them), for fear of jeopardising the investigation. So keep it to yourselves.

Nick Cohen in 2001

Ranted away:

When the enemy craves the ideas which will animate recruits from New Jersey to Indonesia, by way of every Muslim country and diaspora community in between, it is demented to revert to the tactics and B-52s of a Vietnam War so many hard liberals marched against in their soft youth....

America is in Tony Blair's debt. Because Bush can barely be trusted to behave when he's let out in private, Blair has turned himself from British Prime Minister to American ambassador and willingly accepted exhaustion and humiliation as he tours the world on the President's behalf. He has ordered British troops to stand 'shoulder to shoulder' with the US military.

He has - and there's no point being prissy about this - pinned a large target sign on this country.

Now Cohen is within his rights to change his mind. What he's not within his rights is to attack as "morons", and call their views "sinister", people who didn't make such cack-handed predictions (and get taken in by conmen) but who still believe some of what he used to.

How do you tell a suicide bomber?

Explaining the difficult job the police have to do, Commissioner Ian Blair notes, "I know there have been 250 incidents since the July 7 where we have considered whether we are seeing a suicide bomber. And I know that when I last saw it that there have been seven times when we have got as close to calling it as that and we haven't".

What he actually means by this is not clear, but if he means it in the sense of how they tried to identify Friday's victim, I'm not sure if this is reassuring or not. On the one hand it shows the Police are more discriminate with their firing than we feared. 250 times they had a suspect, and only once did they fire. On the other hand it suggests that their procedures for identifying suicide bombers have flashed up 250 potential ones, in which 7 times it almost got to the point of saying they were, and 1 time it said the person was. Yet none of these times was the person a suicide bomber. On the other hand 0 times out of 4 did they spot the actual ones*.

This is not to criticise the Police, as almost everyone believes safety-first is the best policy, but to suggest that the policy of trying to spot potential suicide bombers from their actions, rather than having identified them as such through intelligence, turns up a lot of negatives, particularly when the proportion of people who are suicide bombers is something like 1-1 million.

* This is assuming that they didn't, but it doesn't look like it.

It's the M40 that does it for me

In a poll in the Daily Telegraph the British public were asked if certain phrases or words were "very important" to them in defining Britain or what it means to be British.

12%, 6,000,000 people (this is a new and popular form of reporting polls), believe that the "motorway network" is "very important to them in defining Britain or what it means to be British". It's not ever a good motorway network!

The other answers are admittedly less odd, except perhaps 24%, 12,000,000 people, who believe that "driving on the left" does it for them, and is probably a consequence of silly question design in allowing unlimited choices, rather than say three as is done with 'which issues are important to you".

The Press

Haven't had time to read the stories but today's headlines are interesting. The Express tells us that "Bombers* were all spongeing asylum seekers". The Telegraph, more weirdly, says "Terror suspect is a convicted mugger".

* Even the Express has been hijacked by the Left. What was wrong with Terrorists? If too long they could have deleted 'all'

Update: I followed the Express's spelling of "spongeing", which looks really weird, and I'm still not sure it's right. Webster's dictionary gives it as seems more intuitive, "sponging", and for that definition.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


Backword Dave links to another expose of the Liberal Media. And Nick links to some Labour Party shenanigans as reported by Lorna.

Nick Cohen lashes out

Bombs strike London. Nick Cohen signs a pledge calling for people to 'Unite against Terror'. This is why he signed:

The Michael Moroonification of the majority of leftish opinion might not seem to matter greatly. Obviously, anyone concerned with upholding basic principles is going to want to oppose the apologists for the extreme right, mock their perfidy and correct their errors. Yet Britain still has a Labour government. It isn't going to be out of office anytime soon, however loudly its opponents scream, and its policies are generally sensible. Why bother with the battle of ideas?

The answer lies in the world beyond the polemics on the net and the hysterics in the media. What we have witnessed is a sinister attempt by liberal opinion to deny legitimacy to the very liberals, feminists and socialists who have a right to expect support. The authentic Muslim has become the blood-crazed fanatic rather than the reformer. The authentic liberator has become the fascist rather than the democrat. This is a betrayal on an epic scale which casts doubt on whether it is now possible to have a decent left.

Fighting back proves that a pulse still flickers. You can expect to lose a few friends and have many rows, but at least you will be on the side of best and the bravest. With a bit of luck you will enjoy the struggle and learn the truth of Lady Bracknell's words:'On an occasion of this kind it becomes more than a moral duty to speak one's mind. It becomes a pleasure.'

239 words, a not a single one about terrorism. Not a single effort to "unite". Speaking his mind brings us his view that "The majority of leftist opinion" is moronic, worse "liberal opinion" is sinister.

Remarkably this is not the worst "why I signed". That belongs to Stephen Pollard.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Police Shooting II

Here's two contrasting views, Oliver Kamm, who on the present evidence finds it "an unmitigated disaster", and Peter Cuthberton's new guest poster, DumbJohn, who believes it is the Left's fault, though from the post it is impossible to discern why.

Safety in a car

An amusing article about cycling by Stephanie Flanders in yesterday's Telegraph notes that:

Many of us are more nervous getting behind the wheel of a car than on a plane, even though...the risk of death, per hour travelled, on the road or in the air is about the same. But we radically understate the risk in one case and overstate it in the other -- because we like to think the risks are smaller when we are in control

Broadly speaking she must be right (her article then goes on to talk about the same problem afflicting cyclists). But surely the risk of having a fatal (or non-fatal, but I expect it is less pronounced) car accident does depend to a large part on how you drive, which would explain the generally-held view that young men under 25 have disproportionate share of them, and women in their 50s far fewer. However I couldn't (the DoT just categorises 'adults') any figures to back this up.

update: there's this for traffic accidents in the US.

Right-wing conspiracy theories

"Verity" over at Samizdata on the London police shooting:

Someone walky-talkied those officers to follow that suspect. Who? I believe an operation is underway to show that giving anti-terrorist officers guns is dangerous to the general public. Therefore, we won't be able to arm officers any more. From now on they will fight desperate Islamic bombers with their bare hands.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Peevish England

I guess there's an element of joking about it, but the English cricketers do appear rather pathetic in their constant references to willing for it to rain for the rest of the test [it didn't; we lost]. It would perhaps be better for them, and the paying public, if they tried not to lose by the rather more elevated tactic of not getting out for less than 200 in each innnings.

Nick Cohen

Excellent post by Dave on Nick Cohen's continuing campaign against his neighbours. The line Dave quotes, "But it’s a far cry from Islington to the slums of the north" is truly remarkable.

It's strange thing constant mention of Islington, or Hampstead, by members of the Decent Left. It wasn't long ago, say less than 5 years, when if someone referred to those areas as a way of making a political argument you would know that they were right-wing reactionaries and had no proper argument. In fact it was almost a comic-book stereotype of such a figure.

The police killing

I think the best case that can be made for the police action.

1. They have under surveillance a house in South London from which one of the suicide bombers came.
2. A man left the house and they decided to follow him. At this point they had no concern he was a potential suicide bomber.
3. At the tube station he bolted over the gates.
4. He wouldn't stop when he was given warnings about being shot.
5. Thus they assumed he was a suicide bomber and were forced to take action.

I think if this is roughly what happened then it's probably justifiable. The two main areas of concern would be (1) how small was this 'house' or 'flats'. If it was a large council flats block then this makes the initial suspicion weak. And (3) what caused him to bolt over the gates. ?

A few things seem to me to be red herrings. The issue of his wearing a coat. Friday was not a particularly warm morning, and enough Londoners do wear thick coats on such days. On the other hand it appears his spoken English was good, so it seems unlikely he didn't understand the warnings.

So probably a tragic but understandable mistake. What is more concerning is the police's seeming inability to indentify the man for over a day. According to the Sunday Times they said he was one of the bombers, then they said he was something to do with it, and were still saying he was known from previous counter-terrorism operations yesterday. What we need is...Oh lord I'm arguing for identity cards.

Friday, July 22, 2005

By his chins!

Great new website following the idocies of Dave 'I'll never believe another word the British or American government' Aaronovitch.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

More tube incidents

Reuters reporting nail bomb [see update] at Warren Street, right by me!, and "incidents" at Oval, Shepherds Bush and bus in East London. Doesn't look 'too' serious at the moment.

Update: BBC report just detonators.

Update II: Nice touch. "Sky News reported that staff at University College Hospital (UCH) had been passed an internal memo asking them to look out for a black, possibly Asian man, around 6ft 2ins tall, with wires protruding from a hole in his blue top."


For those considering not renewing their household contents insurance the latest crime figures show the chance of being a victim of attempted household burglarly is 2.7%, or 1/37, the chance of the burglar gaining entry is 1.7%, or 1/58, and the chance of him nicking something is 1.2%, or 1/83.

So if burglary rates stay the same, and you live in an average area, your chance of getting through life from 30 to 70 without being victim of a burglar who gains entry but doesn't take anything is 1/2. It's probably higher than this actually. Burglarly rates are falling (under Michael Howard for instance attempted burglaries were more than double what they are today, with fewer households). For the median person it's probably higher still, as a large proportion of burglaries take place in a few specific geographical areas*. Thus the median person will probably have a much higher chance of never being a victim.

* Of course this is not so good if you live in such an area.

Daily Express finds link between Iraq and bombings

I can't read the story, but it seems that it is wrong to prosecture anyone British for anything until the bombings are more distant. I'm going to try that with speeding on the motorway.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Angel, it's so wrong

Truly astonishing Hitchens' piece in which the fact that its the White House that does the leaking of a CIA operative's identiy appears to be irrelevant.

The Decent Left

10th July

The instinctive response of a significant portion of the rich world's intelligentsia to the murder of innocents on 11 September was anything but robust. A few, such as Karlheinz Stockhausen, were delighted. The destruction of the World Trade Centre was 'the greatest work of art imaginable for the whole cosmos,' declared the composer whose tin ear failed to catch the screams.

17th July

The comment piece below was wrong to say that the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen was 'delighted' at the attack on the World Trade Centre, describing it as 'a great work of art'. In fact, Stockhausen made a statement to the effect that he believed the devil was still an active force in the world and condemned the attack as 'Lucifer's greatest work of art'. Apologies.

So here is a lesson. Eat the bruschetta, or you make absurd libellous statements about people merely because it suits your story.

A more realistic Crisis Alert system

to the rescue!

PCRS XIII - Sir Edward Heath

Many would expect me to be indifferent to Sir Edward Heath's death, given his rabid pro-Europeanism, statist economic policies and wicked anti-Americanism. Yet the truth is far different. Ted Heath was one of the greatest Englishman of our time. Two policies of his will stand out as the most far-sighted and far-reaching in Britain's glorious history. First he appointed Margaret Thatcher to his cabinet, as Education Secretary. Then he lost to her in a leadership election. No single decision has so improved our country's future.

"JohninLondon" on the BBC

...For instance 9/11 was not described as terrorism, I find

Right, John.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

BBC news

After some time without a Broadband connection I am very pleased it is back. This site is worth a couple of minutes if you like news and design history, with clips of BBC news programmes back to the 1970s. Of the graphics styles I remember far too many, though the early 1970s one is weirdly similar to the late 1980s one.

BBC fascist?

Is the BBC heading towards becoming a fascist-supporting organisation, asks David T. This is hot on the heels of calling John Band a fascist fellow-traveller (on the grounds he mistook him for a JohnB who was calling himself JohnB(2)) yesterday (subsequently retracted).

Public believe Iraq was an issue

New ICM poll

According to the poll, 33% of Britons think the prime minister bears "a lot" of responsibility for the London bombings and a further 31% "a little". This is remarkable given the government's efforts to rubbish such a link. Caution must be exercised however, without knowin the exact question and breakdown it might be less interesting than it seems (ICM's questions are sometimes strange, as in the religious hatred poll on Monday). Annoying ICM appear to have gone on Summer hols with their website updating, so I can't tell.

The poll also puts Labour on 39% and the Tories on 31%, further evidence that whilst they have no leader (though as Nick reminded us yesterday nominally Michael Howard remains leader) their poll support is going to be flat.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Prepare for another invasion

The reports that Basra is now essentially under Taliban-style government reminded me of this Christopher Hitchens' quote (in That Post).

Christopher Hitchens said to Ghassan Atiyyah: “If the Iraqis were to elect either a Sunni or Shia Taliban, we would not let them take power.” ...Hitchens had a defender, too. He had me. “I agree with Christopher,” I said. “We didn’t invade Iraq to let it turn into another Iran.”

Anyway read it all, as they say. I just read it again for the first time since January and it's impossible not to laugh out loud at least ten times. The highlights are Hitchen's juvenile habit of calling people 'sir' when he disagrees with them, Totten's what Crooked Timber called 'the opposite of epiphanies', for instance "Something I said must have got through to him, and thank God for that. He and I – truly – were on the same side. I knew it, and I’m pretty certain he knew it too" or the sublime "“Who the hell are you?” Atiyyah said to Hitchens as if I weren’t the last one to speak", but there are loads more; Totten's apparent view of Iraqis as small, cuddly animals that occasionally bite, and of course the wonderful Hitchens' closing remarks: "'Angel', he said.'Can I call you angel?'. Of course, I said. 'I want to exploit your knowledge of blogs'.In fact is all unmissable: Blog post of the year easily.

Psephological analysis from Michael J Totten

Is there any limit to this man's arrogance?

Joseph: Without the War Bush would have won in a landslide with more then 55% of the vote.

I doubt it. I wouldn't have voted for him without the war, and neither would anyone else I know who switched their vote from 2000 to 2004.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 16, 2005 11:39 AM

Religious hatred laws

The BBC reports on an opinion poll it commissioned asking about the government's planned law against inciting religious hatred.

51% find in favour, 44% opposed. However I'm not sure the poll was fair. It asks which of two statements you felt was closest to your own view, "I support laws to prevent abuse or inciting hatred on faith grounds", and "Banning criticism of those with different religious beliefs is an unjustified curb on free speech". Whatever you think of the bill it's hard to argue that it 'bans criticism of those with different religious beliefs'.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Ted Heath is dead...

and Mrs Thatcher , very well, says what needs to be said.

Update: It's been a long time since there were decent Tories like Ted Heath. Any one whose spent time with them know that the height of humour amongst Tories was to forecast Heath's death. Expect nasty commentary, along these lines. There used to be a website called 'Burn Ted Heath', run by Goldsmith style anti-Europeans. I think they've sensibly taken it down.

IRA doing well

The second-largest terrorist attack in Britain has done the IRA no harm, rather counter-intuitively. I've seen numerous articles much like Nigel Farndale's in today's S.Telegraph, in which he says "say what you like about IRA terrorists, at least they know what they want". Nice cuddly terrorists who gave warnings, etc.

Of course as with so many things, Michael J Totten was there first.

...we would a pipsqueak of a bomb in a trashcan at the mall by the IRA?... Old school terrorists like the IRA and the Basque ETA don’t behave this way, nor will they ever.

British Taliban

A few posts down I noted that Talibanisation of Basra. Via Anthony Cormack I see this chilling story, which implies that this is happening without any British protest.

It is of course important that the military intervene as little as possible in the affairs of Iraq, otherwise the elections will have been meaningless. Nevertheless it is a strange policy of a government to say it is fighting islamic terrorism as hard as possible, whilst allowing an fundamentalist islamic state to be created under its watch.

It has been argued that we just don't have the troops. This was clear before the invasion of Iraq, so it is no excuse. If the government believes we need more troops it should budget for more troops. I'll note that the entire Army costs £5.4bn a year, so scrapping Trident would allow at least (it will be more because the marginal cost of an extra soldier will be less than the average) an increase in manpower of nearly 1/5th.

Nick Cohen

Nick "Bombings in London: Liberals had it coming" Cohen today runs out of things important to say and gives us his view on how the BBC should report stories. Example:

'Insurgents killed 24 children in Baghdad yesterday' should be replaced by 'Al-Qaeda and the Baathists killed 24 children in Baghdad yesterday.'

Can anyone take this seriously? To say the latter of course requires the BBC to, ahead of the US military, know exactly who has carried out the attacks. More ludicrously, and I can't quite believe this is what he has written, it appears, utterly straight-faced, that Cohen believe the former:

gives the vague impression that what we're up against is the armed wing of Liberal Democrats: a regrettably violent force which, none the less, has understandable demands that may be met, rather than hostis humani generis.

Well ok Nick. In the spirit of this site's new policy of taking the Decent Left at their words, rather than charitably interpreting them in a better light, the search is now on. Please comment if you read that BBC Online headline last week and were, until checking with a more Decent news source, such as Fox News, unsure as to whether the children were killed by the armed wing of the Liberal Democrats or some other people.

ps: The Observer is liberally sprinkled with the word 'insurgent' Cohen so dislikes. Isn't it strange that apparently he doesn't feel it would be more productive of his time to attempt to get that policy changed, rather than the BBC's? Cohen's pecularities are worse than that, here for instance he alleges that the armed wing of the Liberal Democrats is fighting Kurds in Iraq. Surely that isn't true? Maybe James Graham can comment.

Trident replacement under discussion

According to the Times John Reid has opened up discussions with the Americans on replacing Trident. In keeping with the long history of British governance on this issue he has done so before the Cabinet has had a chance to discuss even whether we need such a thing.

Remarkably the report says that it will cost £15bn to £20bn. Allowing for the fact that this is a British government estimate, based on US Defense Department figures, it's probably going to be a factor of two out twice, but even that cost is vastly much more than an aircraft carrier its purchase will almost certainly rule out.

The Prime Minister said, "We are committed to retaining the independent nuclear deterrent". Evidenly he isn't, otherwise his defence secretary wouldn't be having to negotiate the purchase of a system that is totally reliant on the US to maintain.

John Reid also is "said to want to maintain a British submarine-launched system because it is “invisible and invulnerable” to a potential enemy and can be swiftly deployed tactically anywhere in the world. " It would be good if he could give us an example of when the Trident subs have been tactically deployed in their nuclear capacity anywhere in the world. Given the Cabinet probably aren't trusted with that information don't hold your breath.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Death in Iraq

The New York Times reports:

The ministry said that 8,175 Iraqis were killed by insurgents in the 10 months that ended May 31

THis does not include the standard murder rate, which as noted in the post below is running at 300 a month in Basra alone.

Furthermore it does not include those killed by the coalition forces, which not so long ago was said to be higher than the numbers killed by the insurgents.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Politics as normal

Despite all their bluster (including a bizzare website advert saying something along the lines of 'Even the BBC thinks we have a chance) there was actually a swing away from the Conservatives to the Lib Dems in the Cheadle by-election.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Winning the war against terror

Oliver Kamm argues:

The Stop the War Coalition (a front organisation for the Socialist Workers' Party) declared last week in its statement on the London bombings: It is clearer than ever that the "war on terror" in which Britain has been so heavily involved has not, in fact, made the world safer from terrorism.
The Schadenfreude is indecent, but the confident historical assertion is still less justified. We cannot know at this point whether overthrowing the Taliban and Saddam Hussein has made the world safer from terrorism.

This is true. There used to be a convenient report, which Oliver used as a benchmark as to how the war on terror was going, the State Departments' "Patterns of Global Terror". Alas after the 2003 edition had to be restated after it was shown to have missed out much of the year's terrorist attacks, and the 2004 edition said that terrorism was at a 20-year high, the 2005 report was scrapped.

Fighting fascism

David T of Harry's Place on Seumas Milne, and his sort:

These people are, to put it bluntly, Quislings and traitors. They are deliberate fellow travellers [of] a theocratic fascist politics and they know it. We should state it clearly, and we should fight them as we fight fascism itself.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Fighting terrorism

There was an interesting article in The Economist back in November about how France and Germany fight terrorism. I was reminded of it today when French political darling, Nicholas 'whether I like it or not' Sarkozy, claimed (denied by Charles Clarke) that the British had arrested some members of the gang (not those who committed the atrocity) last year, and the BBC reports that France has reimposed European border controls for the time being.

At this point I feel compelled to repring Mr Dennis Lennox's letter from Saturday's FT. It reminded me of a letter once in Viz, which said something like, 'Dear Sir, every day I give the local Police Station a list of what I did the previous day. This helps speed up their elimination of me from any criminal investigations they might have. Only those who have something to hide have anything to fear from such a practice'.

From Mr Dennis Lennox II.

Sir, Thursday's horrible terrorist attack in London reminded me of an increasingly more important issue in Europe: border control and security.

Since the introduction of the Schengen Agreement in 1985 - which was intended to promote free movement of Europeans across much of the continent - most countries have no idea who or what crosses their borders. While a novel concept, the agreement is quite flawed. It was intended for Europeans, but in
reality it applies to citizens of any country once they arrive in a Schengen-participating country. This allows terrorists, smugglers and other criminals to pass undetected. On my most recent trip to Europe, I arrived in Amsterdam on a non-stop flight from the US. Dutch border agents never bothered to question the reason for my visit or my intended destination. Instead, my passport was quickly stamped and I proceeded to catch a connecting flight to Brussels. I quickly located my baggage and met a friend with whom I was to stay in a nearby town. Later that evening, my friend and I were driving back to the Netherlands. We crossed without hindrance and returned to Brussels in just four hours. Two days later, I was back at the airport and boarding a flight to Denmark that, like Belgium and the Netherlands, is part of a "free movement zone". And just like with Brussels, I encountered no passenger checking. The Danes had no idea that I was in their country and, if they did discover that information through passenger lists, they wouldn't know my purpose or what I was bringing into their country. The next morning I was back to Brussels, where I remained for a couple days before returning to the US via Amsterdam.

I would think that so many border crossings in such a short period of time would spark some interest with some governmental agency responsible for intelligence or border control, but to my knowledge it didn't, which I find unacceptable in this post-September 11 world.

My only two solutions would be to abandon Schengen and institute checks for everyone at all points of entry, or refine Schengen so that citizens of member countries are the only ones allowed free movement, while everyone else is subject to entry approval.These two proposals probably won't be popular with many Europeans, but they have to be considered. Without stringent checks, more and more terrorist attacks and cross-border criminal activities will occur on the continent.

Dennis Lennox II,

Midland, Michigan 48640, US

Melanie Phillips 1940 edition

Dateline: 1940

Churchill comes on the wireless:

Very different is the lot of the unfortunate neutrals. Whether on sea or on land, they are the victims upon whom Hitler's hate and spite descend. Look at the group of small but ancient and historic States which lie in the North; or look again at that other group of anxious peoples in the Balkans or in the Danube basin behind whom stands the resolute Turk. Every one of them is wondering which will be the next victim on whom the criminal adventurers of Berlin will cast their rending stroke

1940s Melanie Phillips is outraged.

So people who set out to invade countries, destroy property, rape the woman, kill the children, and murder as many innocent people as possible in the furtherance of the fanatical cause of their peverted ideology were merely ‘adventurers, and their actions simply ‘criminal’! Clearly, in Churchill's mind they would hardly even qualify for an Anti-Social Behaviour Order, when they're invented in 65 years' time. This man, who believes those "weasel words of appeasement", "to jaw-jaw is better than to war-war" should be arrested


A depressing tale of the Tabilanisation of Basra, and the appalling statistics that there have been 300 murders a month for the last three months. s

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Why there?

It has been suggested, for instance Johann Hari, or David T on Harry's Place (to tired to do a link, it's the top post at the moment) that the bomb locations on Thursday were deliberate, being predominant Muslim areas.

I think there are three reasons this probably isn't true. First, it's hard to explain the King's Cross/Russell Square bomb. Second, if that was the aim of the bombers then it shows a degree of forward and intelligent planning. If that was so then it would have been better, to use a terrible term in this context, to take the bombs off the underground and on to street level. Edgware Road at 8:50am is mainly people on the Western District Line changing to the circle line, a demographic which is relatively rich people heading for the City. Third, and most importantly, the suggestion now is the bombs all went off at 8:50, either because that was planned for they were on timers. There can be no confidence on the Circle Line that you will be at a certain place at a certain time, instead surely the bombs should have gone off at different times.

Indeed in the context of times from King's Cross perhaps the targets were Liverpool Street and Paddington, because at 8:50 they would be very busy. Indeed someone from outside London might not know the frequency at which trains stop at Edgware Road for a long period of time. The mystery then is the Picadilly Line bomb, which was only just out of King's Cross at 8:50. It does take longer to get to that line than the others (it is much deeper), and perhaps it was delayed more (though this is unusual). Or maybe the target was somewhere similarly busy, like Leicester Square, or Holborn?

"Not Afraid"

It is typical of the traditional indomitable British pluck that this man, lying on the beach of what looks like a desert island, is prepared to say he is "Not Afraid" of global terrorism. What spirit!

Events of last Thursday

This purports to explain the 9:17 mixup, which is that the Metropolitan Police were only told that it was an explosion at Edgware Road at that time, so assumed it had happened at that time.

The BBC also reports that the Police believe 3 bombers may have been suicide bombers. This would clearly be highly worrying, though its not confirmed yet, and if you were going to go to the trouble of blowing yourself up one would think there might have been better targets to choose than what were chosen.

The Harry's Place "Voice of Reason"

Graham, on an article by Gary Younge:

That's called hyperbole Gal. And even back in Shakespeare's day they knew what it meant when a character started using such over the top language.

Graham, in the next but one comment:

From my perspective The Guardian is a bit like Izvestia under Stalin.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Are text messages saved?

This caught my eye

Home Secretary Charles Clarke wants all EU countries to agree that communication firms retain details of all calls made, texts and e-mails sent for a year.

Do phone companies at present keep records of the content of text messages, in addition to when and to whom they were sent?

Blaming the government

No, no, not the George Galloway critique*. This one apparently less controversially, is to suggest that the government's commitment to civil liberties allowed terrorist groups to flourish in London and now we are paying the price. Remarkably the NYT even points the finger at old Bill Cash.

* Talking of which this 2002 briefing by the ISS take that line. It also uses the figure of 3,000 british men having passed through Al Qaeda camps, which the Sunday Times appears to believe was an exclusive, yesterday.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

The loopy right

Well I chose a good weekend for my first visit to Birmingham for 12 years. Anyway, to add to the mood of gloom here's some evidence that the loopy right are out in force at the moment. I hope such sentiments aren't widespread. Certainly the National Review seems to believe the US is at war with France.

Another Fox News host, John Gibson, said before the blasts that the International Olympic Committee "missed a golden opportunity" by not awarding the 2012 games to France. "If they had picked France instead of London to hold the Olympics, it would have been the one time we could look forward to where we didn't worry about terrorism. They'd blow up Paris, and who cares?"

Friday, July 08, 2005

Two confusing points

1. What time did the Edgware Road bomb go off? The BBC (Mark Urban on Newsnight) just said it was 8:53, not 9:17 as their website is saying. This is obviously rather strange, particularly so as I remember that was the time it was originally said to have gone off. Update: The reports are now that all bombs went off at the same time (on the tubes). The Police's explanation for the 27 min error is not very convincing, being that they had emergency calls at 9:17 so thought that was when it happened. That no-one phoned the Police for 27 mins is so absurd that can't be what they mean, but I have no idea what they do.

2. Was the exploded bus going from Hackney to Marble Arch or from Marble Arch to Hackney? Everyone (probably from the same information) says the former, but most of the evidence points to the latter.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

John Birt's Blue Skies

Catherine Bennett takes a witty look at the just-released John Birt reports into topics such as crime, london, drugs etc. The actual reports are here, and are quite interesting too.

Demonstrations against Terror

Harry quotes Paul Anderson:

The outrages in London are the work of enemies of humanity. There should be massive demonstrations throughout Britain this weekend to show our solidarity against them.

Conversely Tim Worstall says:

No grand demonstrations, few warlike chants, a desire for revenge, of course, but the reaction of the average man and woman in the street? Yes, you’ve tried it now bugger off. We’re not scared, no, you won’t change us. Even if we are scared, you can still bugger off.

I wonder what will happen. There were large demonstrations against terrorism in Spain after the Madrid bombings. But the Spanish have had a history of protesting against terrorism, whereas I can't (though I might be wrong) remember one major demonstration against IRA terrorism. I would imagine if it's going to happen it needs to be organised pretty quickly.

The National Review comments...

If it's solely up to Tony Blair, Ken Livingstone, and the rest of the Brits (I'll make a few exceptions, but they are not very important), Osama bin Laden will be riding around in a chauffered limousine ten years from now, and having tea with the Queen.

John Derbyshire

Bombs in London

So I apologise to Lord Coe for the post below. If anyone who lives or works in London wants to leave a comment telling us they are alive and well, please do. To my friend who made me leave my bike at his and get the tube this morning, thanks. I actually feel rather lucky given I pass through Edgware Road when I get the tube at almost exactly the time the bombs went off, but was late this morning.

Update:I don't intend to keep updating this post with news, as the BBC or newspaper sites do that much better. However I'll note there is now a tentative estimate of deaths, which is 33.
Update II: It's now 37. The worst domestic British terrorist act in terms of deaths was Lockerbie, with 270, and the worst on the ground was in Omagh, at 29. THe worst in London was the Household Cavalry bombing in 1982, killing 8. However in terms of total casualties at 750 and rising this is the worst in British history.
Update III: Now 50.

Well done Lord Coe

No tubes running on the central line or district line from Notting Hill this morning [update: appears it's worse than I thought, definitely wrong day to have left your bike at someone else's]. Traffic chaos, fire engines, police cars, everywhere. Seven more years of this, with the only potential saving grace some of the more obnoxious people in thye city might go and live in some marshes somewhere near Dartford because it's trendy.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Olympics

It's been 17 years since I watched an Olympics with any interest,, so I can't say I was too excited about the Games coming to London. Nevertheless now it I think the tone of the 'don't cares' or 'it will be a disaster', or 'it won't work' seems rather jaded.

Those who are forecasting London meltdown forget the fact that London is a very big city, and should be able to absorb even something the size of this relatively easily. Olympics do bring traffic chaos, but I doubt anyone will notice. Those who argue it will be an expensive disaster are on stronger grounds, but the bid has been well-planned and uses a surprisingly large amount of facilties that are already built. Anyway we hear a lot about how rich and successful the economies of London and Britain are, so it should be easily affordable.

Whether the boredom threshold can be overcome I don't know. Athletics remains the key of the modern games, and yet also the most damaged in public esteem. Sports such as tennis and football (will Britain put up a team?) don't transfer well, and the other sports tend to be for enthusiasts (will pistol shooting be allowed?) or patriots (Note to Britons - your view of rowers & rowing for all but two weeks every four years is correct, not the one you have during Olympics).

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Sporting snobbery

At Wimbledon I noticed that the famous statue of Fred Perry by the Church Road entrance, our last male winner of the tournament, had been removed. I presume to somewhere else, but it wouldn't be out of keeping if they had decided to be done with him altogether.

Perry, the working-class son of a Labour MP, was not one to shout his grievances from the rooftops, but wrote of 'the shabby way I was treated when I won Wimbledon in 1934'. Shabby is an understatement. The head of the All England Club apologised to Perry's defeated Australian opponent, ruefully noting that it was shame that kind of man' had to win.

There can be no doubt that snobbery of this sort has been, at least in part, responsible for Britain's poor historical record at sports that it mostly invented. The ethos of the 'amateur' combined snobbery, hypocrisy (amateurs often got paid more than professionals) and incompetence, beautifully illustrated in this 1939 cricketing tale of Ross Mckibben's:

In congratulating David Sheppard on his century for Cambridge against Gloucestershire at Briston, Tom Graveny [a professional] called him 'David' whereupon his skipper [Basil Allen] rounded on him with the remark 'He's Mister Sheppard to you'. Allen later went into the Sussex dressing-room and said to David Sheppard 'I must apologise for Graveney's impertinence. I think you'll find it won't happen again.

What are you doing ce soir?

This academic paper, via Brad De Long, tries to explain the difference in European and US work hours and holidays. It notes that explanations that rely on historical differences such as religion fail to explain why Europeans worked more hours until the 1960s, and fewer afterwards. They also believe that marginal tax rates could not explain enough of the change. Essentially their argument is that it is a voluntary decision on behalf of Europeans, but one for which the catalyst was restrictive labour market practices from the early 1970s. The neat trick is the argument that their are "social multipliers" to leisure, in the form of it is better for one to be on holiday when others are. THus longer holidays become increasingly desired.

What interested me more however was the implications these externalities have for transport. It is often suggested (as Chris did the other week) that to lower transport congestion people shold stagger their work hours. Yet as the authors of the above paper note, most people in the world work between 9 and 5/6 despite the many benefits of not doing so. Again the suggestion is because of "social multipliers". If this is right, and it does make sense, then peak-time pricing may have to be so high to have an impact that it is political unacceptable.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Public say NO to Trident

The British people are opposed to replacing Trident, according to today's YouGov opinion poll in the Daily Telegraph. This is true of Conservative supporters, as well as Labour/Lib Dem ones, according to Tony King.

In total less than 1/3rd of those with an opinion wish to see it being replaced, with just under 1/2th believing the money saved should be spent on conventional weapons, and about 1/5th believing it should be spent on neither.

This is important. The political establishment tend to be 100% behind the silly idea of replacing it, with some honourable exceptions such as Michael Portillo. That decent, honest, Englishman can see through this political posturing of our nation's conservative elites makes one optimistic about the future of our great nation [(c) all right-wing blogs]

(Link thanks to Anthony Wells)

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Unfortunate inventions

As caffeine-enhanced beer goes on sale, a correspondent asks:

In the good old days, the law used to intervene. When licensing was relaxed, the imperative for the body to intervene was even greater. What are we supposed to do now?

It's a fair point. One can only suggest carrying around a pack of sleeping-pills, but the side-effects could be disastrous.

Ps: This is quite a good example of corporate irresponsibility. The only point of this drink appears to be to encourage post-pub fighting.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Saturday fun

The free copy of the Daily Telegrah I picked up at their House & Garden Show, Olympia (on 'til tomorrow, quite good if you like that sort of thing, free food and wine in upstairs gallery if you don't) pointed out that despite the fine weather there was little point leaving your television.

Well at least in this part of London the weather wasn't too fine, but the Telegraph got it right. The Lions game was disappointing, but the Wimbledon final was a classic and the cricket is heading towards a great finish. Tomorrow, if the weather holds up, there's more, as I'm off to the Men's Final. And if Federer loses, I'll eat this blog.

Update: Also, and I never thought I'd say this, Ian Botham's commentary has been superb.

Update II: Well the blog is safe as Federer won in straight sets. It was one-sided, not because Roddick played poorly, more in that Federer outclassed Roddick in all aspects of the game. The game was dull, because Federer played tennis better than any other player I have ever seen. Sport, eh?