Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Caspar Weinberger

Oliver Kamm, in an admiring piece on the late Caspar Weinberger, notes:

Weinberger's political career was overshadowed by the Iran-Contra scandal

Which is a polite way of putting it, at best. Weinberger's role in that has never become clear, mainly because disgracefully President Bush gave him pardon before he was to stand trial. That pardon speaks volumes, for most of the evidence suggests he knew about it and lied about that.

Oliver quotes Weinbergers's memoirs, where he talks of the "rule of law having strong defenders" and his view that "Y]ou can't have a moral foreign policy if the people cannot control it". These must be the first memoirs in history where the account is of the experiences and views of someone other than the author.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The England World Cup Song

This was going to be a rant about how could the FA choose to record the England world cup an American band from the early 1990s who sang that terrible song, "More than Words".

However a quick check on Wikipedia shows that's an American band called Extreme, and this is Embrace. Who I know nothing about.

Surely this is a job for Mick Hucknall?

Monday, March 27, 2006


Can this really be true?

[S]ince March 2003, the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing alone has dropped more than 500,000 tonnes of ordnance on Iraq

I think the entire second world saw something like 5m tonnes of bombs.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The March for Free Expression

There's been some interesting developments in the March for Free Expression, which is to take place tomorrow in Trafalgar Square.

The showing of the Danish cartoons has now been banned from the march as they offend Muslims.

The march in Denmark with which it was being associated ("London, Berlin and Copenhagen will stand together on the 25th")is now not being associated with, as it's run by a group who call for the deportation of Muslims from Europe.

The "Left and Right Unite in Support of Freedom of Expression" exclaimed this post, saying that Democrativa and the Freedom Association would be standing together. They're not now though as Alan Johnson, of Democrativa, refuses to share a platform with the Freedom Association.

Ps The BBC has a story.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


How do you stop someone called "Justyn Trenner" emailing you? I've been sent three now asking me to sign a petition. Do you have to sign to stop the junk mail? I'll sign three times if it helps...

The Budget

I once (2003? 2004?) wrote a blog post noting that no British bloggers covered the Budget in that year. And this isn't going to cover the budget either. Instead it's merely a short bit of special pleading about how unfair the government's green car taxation policy is.

Basically they've extended and increased the differential you pay for having a car that produces a greater amount of CO2 per km. So for example people who own large multi-purpose vehicles* now have to pay a whopping £215 a year road tax.

The idea is not silly - cutting CO2 emissions is important. Not even Iain Murray denies global warming exists and is contributed to by humans these days. What is silly is the imposition of the tax per km. For example people who only do about 8000 km a year will have to pay as much as those who do 50,000 a year, even though their emissions will be 1/10th as much. They'll pay more than those with 'less polluting' vehicles who actually produce more pollution.

CO2 emissions rise essentially in line with fuel consumption. An increased tax on fuel would be a better measure*.

* Camper vans.
** Particularly when most of those kilometres are done in France, where the diesel is much cheaper and wouldn't affect me.

Update: Well I've attacked Brown, so now a go at Charlie. I'll probably be accused of nanny-statism but I didn't like seeing him cycle without a cycle helmet. I thought his speech was quite good, except the ending, which sounded terrible. And it wasn't helped by his troops: George Osborne, who looks as if he's only in politics because he thought it was a bit of a wizard wheeze, presumably to to cut inheritance tax; the woman to Charlie's right who was wearing the most odd golden footwear, and who should try to look less overawed by Charlie, and c) the headless man (at least on TV) with the terrible tie behind him. This was all based on the BBC's Ten o'clock news broadcast, where I thought Andrew Marr's replacement (it's the first time I've seen him on television) is a vast improvement on Snuffles.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


Jamie and Dave (links to the right) both link to this Matthew Parris article, and indeed it presents a powerful argument.

Suffice it to say that I used to believe that, at the moment of saying anything, our Prime Minister probably thought that what he said was true — that there was no secret, internal wink. Today I have lost confidence even in that.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Gerry Adams

Is the last line of this report meant to imply the plastic gloves were out?

Tories have £20m loans

Presumably a nice bit of Labour leaking, but the Times reports that the Tories have £20m of loans, slightly more than Labour's £14m. I have no idea whether this an identical story to the Labour one, or spin, and can't be bothered to read the story to find out. So comments welcome.

Meanwhile the man who got them into that situation, for very little return, is to quit the House of Commons. British politics will be immeasurably better off. Nevertheless I feel slightly sorry for the man - whenever you see David Cameron speak on TV you realise just how little remains of the Howard era.

Friday, March 17, 2006


It's almost like a Jeffrey Archer novel, with the climax building of both Blair's resigning in shame on the same day, and then discovering they are actually twin brothers (they were born less than two months apart, so I'm sure the plot can allow that somehow), or something like that. Today's scandal affecting Blair 1 is £14m of loans to the Labour Party being revealed, and Blair 2, his own Deputy-Commisioner is thinking of suing him for libel (I think that's the story, it's badly written and confusing).

The John Major of blogging

A new look, and the new look is that of the mid-1990s John Major. It's terribly dull I know, but at least it's readable on Firefox, and as the unfortunate sacking of Sarah Sands has shown, fluffy, pink, Sex-in-the-City styling is OUT. Grey is in, and anyway the sparkingly witty posts will make up for the colour of the template.


I like this Oliver Kamm piece about blogs.

Counterfactual history

It's not quite as bad as when Scott Burgess invented a peaceful and prosperous Iraq and demanded liberals honestly tell him their feelings, but I recommend Gerard Baker's counterfactual history if you want to know what a man at the end of his tether sounds like.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Deaths in Iraq

Oliver Kamm has fun with a witty introduction to his Guardian article poking fun (I know it was some time ago, but this site hardly at the cutting-edge, wait to you see the timeliness of the rest of this article) at the poor predictive powers of various anti-war figures, ie Charles Kennedy, George Galloway, and Shirley Williams (a 1970s Labour then Liberal politician).

It is not a vulgar tu quoque to point out that those who supported regime change in Iraq are far from exceptional in having some explaining to do.

Indeed, he could have gone on. There was the then Lib Dem MP Sue Doughty, who was the subject of Oliver's 10th blog post of all time and the first to carry the strapline, "Those Liberal Democratic Predictions". Her laughable, "rubbish", attempt at forecasting was to say:

"[Diplomacy] would be preferable to the huge loss of life for Iraqi civilians and our own servicemen and women that would be the inevitable result of war."

Unbelievable. Anyway the idiocies of the Liberal Democrats was not the point of this post, but to ask if anyone knows on which date the Iraq Body Count survey went from being an object of the pro-war Left's scorn as a politically biased survey which should be attacked with slurs about its getting 'inspiration' from people the Weekly Standard has exposed as fabricators of data (see Oliver's post) to being the definitive guide to Iraqi casualties as seen by its link from uber-Decent site, The Henry 'Scoop' Jackson Society. Any sighting of favourable links to it before the 29th October 2004?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Blair wins crunch education vote, says the BBC.

MPs voted by 458 votes to 115 in favour of plans to give schools more control over admissions and budgets.

Gosh, that was a crunch vote.

Monday, March 13, 2006


It's been a storming start to the YouGov year, with £1.50 in January, £2.50 in February, and as of today, a whopping £3 in March. This is the second highest monthly total (and of course we are only half way through the month) after June 2003, when I got £3.50. There have been no months since April 2003 when I did not receive something. There were 4 months, however, when I got only 50p.

Anyway fingers crossed - at this rate the magic £50 is only a month or so away!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

In today's Telegraph

Niall Ferguson argues that Bush & Cheney will attack Iran's nuclear facilities with missiles out of anger at Congressional disloyalty and to show Congressmen they are still in charge.

Max Hastings says that the British working in Iraq hate the Americans more than anyone else.

Finally the Telegraph's editorial seems as if it might have been written by the new editor to be [in fact it might have been written by her - see comments]. It argues that

"They are assured that interest rates are at a 40-year low; but their mortgage keeps going up."

What do they mean here? That [long-term] interest rates aren't at a 40-year low? Is it an argument about 'real' interest rates? Or are they complaining about profiteering by the banks and building societies - are they suggesting they are not passing on the low interest rates? It makes absolutely no sense at all.

Ex-lifetime President

Chris Gent quits as 'lifetime President' of Vodafone. It was always a stupid job title to give someone, as if Vodafone was the Royal Family. At least it will give him more time to write columns for the FT on why we need lower taxes.


One of the handiest features in google (and a lot of other search engines) is that if you put a minus in front of a word it will return webpages without that word. This is particularly useful if a word has two meanings, and you wish to eliminate pages with one of those.

By accident I just searched for [-rabbit] (don't ask why) which returns various webpages, first of American Airlines, and then 3COM (this is on the site, but it's the same on the com one). Other - searches tend to be similar, but sometimes 3COM is top, or in the case of [-a] you get Ebay Ireland (at least on the site). Does anyone know what this search is returning? Is it the most popular site that doesn't contain that word?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The politics of envy

Alice Thomson has written today one of the most self-pitying articles I have ever read in a newspaper, "How Labour abuses the middle classes".

It beings by telling us that:

If you are living on benefits, smoke, drink, have out-of-control children and like shoplifting on the side, then the Government can help. It will provide you with a personal trainer, a supernanny to sort out your domestic problems, extensive family tax credits and will turn a blind eye to anything small you might like to nick from a shop. You don't have to worry about taxes and the police are too frightened to stop you keeping a gun on the side without a licence

There is nothing factually correct in this piece, which really is quite impressive for something that makes 30 claims. How many people on benefits have a 'supernanny' and a personal trainer? Or people who drink? Does she mean people who fit all of those categories, in which she must mean about one person, or is it an 'or'? Last time I looked I was quite fond of drinking, and haven't been offered a personal trainer. Indeed the middle classes are hardly strangers to drink as a group. And I thought the Telegraph was on smoker's side? But what's the point or arguing with something that is utter fantasy.

After this she then has a go at the rich, which others can discuss, and then she turns into a standard middle-class rant about taxation, with hardly any evidence to back it up. Obviously by 'middle class' she means the small proportion of us who pay higher rate tax, though she supplies no figures about how much more tax is paid, how much more income is earned, to what extent pension contributions offset that etc. These don't exist presumably becuase they would not show what she wants. She probably still believes that taxes have risen from 35p to 50p in the pound, which the Telegraph last year in an article, a leader and other columns, claimed had happened since Labour were elected.. When one looked at the figures, they assumed every middle class person moved house once a year. Which is obviously a fantasy. This meant almost all of the increase was stamp duty!. When this kind of thing has to be invented, you know the underlying case is weak. She also apparently wants to soak the rich, though she doesn't give details, strangely.

With a straight face she says:

"Those in the middle are struggling with inheritance tax (six million are now liable)"

Struggling? How? It doesn't make sense. How can you struggle with inheritance tax? It's paid to other people when you are dead. In any case, it ignores the reason why inheritance tax is now biting, which a simple example shows. The argument must be as follows. Before 1997 people were thinking 'when grandma dies I'm going to get £200,000 from her house, and not pay inheritance tax'. Now they must be thinking 'when grandma dies I'm going to get £400,000 from her house, and will have to pay about £50,000 inheritance tax, so I'll ONLY GET £350,000. Bloody Socialists'.

It is dishonest to complain about the widening of inheritance tax, without acknowledging it is because of the huge gains in house prices, which have made the middle classes very rich, and which are not unrelated to government economic policies. There is no way someone inheriting can be worse off from inheritance tax now than in 1997.

Finally let's consider her own economic situation. She is an editor of the Daily Telegraph. Her husband is chief political writer on the Daily Mail. Both publications are known to pay very well. Their joint income is going to be in the hundreds of thousands of pounds a year. That is super rich.

The Things Daily Mail readers say!

My wife and I spend a lot of time in Botswana, where people of different races live side by side in harmony and you can order a black coffee without eyebrows being raised...

Mike Matson, Sussex

..and so it goes on, culminating in how they purchased a Botswanian friend of theirs a gollywog from a craft market, and he loved it.

Britain, a country where apparently you can't order a black coffee without eyebrows being raised. Have any readers had this slight? Indeed what's been your worst experience of ordering a black coffee?

Oh dear

Melanie Phillips has a new book out, "Londistan". Published by Encounter Books, who are also currently offering, "Selfish Genes, Errors of Heredity and Other Fables of Evolution" and "Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts About the Sixties" by David Horowitz, it will be released on April 30th. It sounds unmissable:

Melanie Phillips pieces together the story of how Londonistan developed as a result of the collapse of British self-confidence and national identity and its resulting paralysis by multiculturalism and appeasement. The result is an ugly climate in Britain of irrationality and defeatism, which now threatens to undermine the alliance with America and imperil the defence of the free world.

Wheatcroft appointed editor of S.Telegraph

So the paper of Christopher Booker gets a new editor, Patience Wheatcroft of the Times. She'll be a good fit. The Independent describes her as 'very right wing'. I can't say much about her commitment to news values, except a perhaps telling interaction I had (the only time I think I have read her work). Just before last year's election she misrepresented an IFS report (confirmed to me by the IFS itself), making things sound worse than they were. When I suggested by email she make a correction, after trying to explain it away, she said she didn't think there was any point in going back to it.

Now I know I'm sounding like Scott Burgess (or at least pre-tip jar Scott Burgess) but the impossibility of getting right-wing newspapers to correct anything is a bugbear of mine.

Anyway I've managed to stay loyal to the paper through Moore, Lawson and Sands, so I suspect I can have patience with Wheatcroft.

Police shoot to kill

The ACPO have said that their shoot-to-kill policy for suspected suicide bombers, and the operational details, remains the right policy.

If you read the full statement, some of their thinking becomes clear. They appear unaware that Jean Charles de Menezes was not a suicide bomber. There is no mention of this anywhere.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Johann Hari on the pro-war (Decent) left

However, I think some people on the pro-war left have taken to exaggerating the position of the left and acting as if all of the left is George Galloway. Well George Galloway is a tiny, irrelevant, discredited, stupid, preposterous figure and to act like people like, say Polly Toynbee or Peter Tatchell or people who opposed the war, are all lumped in with them is just daft and gratuitously insulting to people on the left. They had a much more sophisticated analysis.

Interview with Little Atoms.

Argentinians about to invade Falklands?

Liam Fox is concerned. But a member of the Falkland Islands Council describes it as 'almost laughable'.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Ridiculous Standard columnist moves to Mail

No, it's not Nick Cohen. It's a magazine editor who was sacked for calling a model a 'bag of bones'. Oh God, yes, it is Liz Jones, of the Standard.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Champions' League

This week sees the second leg of Barcelona v Chelsea. The first leg was immensely enjoyable, and not just because Chelsea lost. The worst thing though was Sky's absurdly pro-Chelsea commentary. What makes them think that this is the bias their audience wants? Chelsea have a foreign manager, a foreign owner, and mostly foreign players. This was going to be a longer piece, but whilst checking who the Sky commentator was (Rob Hawthorne) I came across this piece in today's Observer which says it all:

Some sort of nadir was reached on Wednesday evening with Andy Gray and Rob Hawthorne's insanely one-eyed commentary on Chelsea v Barcelona. Taking as a given the highly debatable proposition that every Sky viewer passionately wanted Chelsea to win, the bias strayed effortlessly into the old canard about all continental teams being full of cheats and divers. Jose Mourinho can call Lionel Messi a play-actor if he likes, but commentary teams ought to think twice before leaping to such a partisan conclusion. Sky's guys did not even think once. According to Gray and Hawthorne, Messi was 'the villain of the piece'. Outrageous. He might have rolled around a bit after one of the most blatant fouls of the season, and Asier del Horno might have been a touch unlucky to see a straight red for what boiled down to a body-check by the corner flag, but no one could be in any doubt who was the transgressor. No one but television.

Christopher Booker...

...writes a column each week in the Sunday Telegraph so anti-European and paranoid that it almost reads like a spoof. This week he tells us about the Navy's two new aircraft carriers:

The only conceivable purpose for the planned super-carriers is as a major part of Britain's contribution to the Rapid Reaction Force; and it is hard to see what role that can play other than to protect the interests of France, as in President Chirac's disastrous "neo-colonial" adventure in the Ivory Coast.

What would your paper boy say?

Rather strange start to the Telegraph's leader:

To listen to Labour ministers is often to get the impression that they do not think that ordinary codes of behaviour apply to them. After all, if you asked the person who delivers your newspaper in the morning, or who comes to clean your house: "Do you have a[n offshore] bank account?" you would not expect the answer: "I am afraid I cannot possibly comment."

Eh? That is exactly the answer, albeit in more straightforward language, I would expect from my milkman (I don't get the papers delivered), and cleaner if I had one. Ministers shouldn't have offshore bank accounts, and should answer reasonable questions, but the analogy doesn't make sense.

Friday, March 03, 2006

SMC won't be around for long

Yougov are either losing it or know something about SMC's state of health that the rest of us don't. From today's poll (mainly about Tessa Jowell):

What if Gordon Brown were leader of the Labour Party. Which party would you then vote for in a general election?
Conservative led by David Cameron
Labour led by Gordon Brown
Liberal Democrat led by Charles Kennedy
Scottish National / Plaid Cymru
Some other party
Would not vote
Don't know

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Nigerian scandals

This story is quite unbelievable. A doctor got suckered by a Nigerian email scam, and although he is 89 there isn't any suggestion he was going senile:

According to Louis Gottschalk's declaration, he had lost about $900,000 in "bad investments" by 1999. "I now realize that I was taken advantage of," he said.
But his son said his father kept clandestinely wiring money to the Nigerians at least until last fall. Guy Gottschalk said that when he confronted his father in October, Louis Gottschalk said, "Don't worry, everything will be all right on Thursday because I will be getting $20 million." The son said his father also told him he'd get the money this time because these were "different Nigerians."

Hitchens has a blog

Fantastic news.

Blairite foreign policy forever

Matthew Jamieson, of whom we last heard proclaiming that "Britain was unquestionably the world’s second strongest power", has a sparkling new idea.

Noting that Thatcher's true heir in foreign policy was Blair (which involves a slightly strange argument that Cecil Parkison or Michael Portillo would have ensured her foreign policy legacy if they had become PM), and that David Cameron might "prove a useful tool in entrenching the Blair legacy", he argues that Blair's final foreign policy act should be to persuade Parliament, with Tory backing, to
enshrine the basic tenants of his foreign policy into a legally binding Charter, in the form of an Act of Parliament, setting out basic precepts which future Governments must hold to.
In other words, and within the limitations of our constitutional system, it should pass a law to entrench a Blairite foreign policy (of which he lists various suggested points, including a "minimum level of 3.5% of Gross National Income for defence spending").

It's Ming!

So SMC wins, taking 45% in the first ballot, to Chris Huhne's 32% and Simon Hughes 23%. In the second ballot SMC picked up 13% of those Hughes' votes, with Huhne getting just 10%.

My view of SMC is that he is far too old, but you don't want to hear that. It wasn't a particularly good result for YouGov, who have been Britain's most accurate pollster in many elections, and particularly in hard-to-guess ones such as leadership elections, ie the Tories'.

YouGov's poll of Lib Dem members predicted the result would be 38% Huhne, 34% SMC, 27% Hughes, ie a major underestimate of SMC. Of course the poll was taken three weeks ago, and it's quite possible the situation changed in that time (though the Telegraph article makes clear people had thought SMC was in the lead until the poll was published).

I'm pretty sure the betting markets did better, as they always do, regardless of whether they did.