31 August 2010

John Simpson - arsehole emeritus

Who can forget the countless times the BBC replayed the bombing of the mixed Afghan-US Special Forces column to which Simpson was attached? Complete with splash of blood on the lens? With Simpson hinting that maybe it was part of a concerted attack on the press by the Americans?
Admiral Dingbat, we have a sighting of Bin Laden in the open! Shall I divert the F-14s?
No, no, nothing is more important than silencing the awesome voice of John Simpson!
Who can forget him waddling into the Afghan capital with his Kevlar vest straining to contain his bulging gut, while proclaiming himself  "the first man in Kabul"?

So now we have the valedictory on the US occupation of Iraq by Field Marshal Simpson, riding serenely over the complete contempt in which he is held by any soldier who has ever had to deal with him.
The US forces, contrary to all the basic rules of counter-insurgency, allowed the enemy to attack "Route Irish", the main road between Baghdad airport and the Green Zone, as and when it chose. British soldiers, used to Northern Ireland, pointed out again and again that occasional nervous sorties in armoured vehicles were not the same as taking control of it. Their American counterparts took no notice, and the situation grew worse.
Given that the British were beaten like a cheap rug in Iraq, perhaps one might conclude that experience of a low intensity war in Northern Ireland was not all that useful in the face of a full-blown insurgency.
Vast numbers of people have died, the overwhelming majority of them Iraqi. Unthinkably large amounts of money have been spent here, and yet Iraq has slipped far down the world's rich list. 

Has the United States benefited? It is hard to see how.

As the British learned in the Boer War, and Russia learned by invading Afghanistan, great military powers run big risks by putting their strength to the test against weak-seeming opponents.

America seems to have shrunk as a direct result of its imperial adventure in Iraq. It will have to work very hard to persuade the rest of the world that it is strong again.
Yup. It's the BBC house line of America bashing, the cringing sneer of the gamma male.

John Simpson - he puts the fat in fatuous.

P.S. Simon Jenkins' piece in the Guardian today reiterates his old lib-lefty obsession with those eeevul arms manufacturers who cause wars. Been there, pissed on him before. Here he adds a sub-wank about the UN:
All the UN's pomp cannot stop such incidents running amok. The UN is powerless in the face of glory-seeking statesmen, goaded by military-industrial interests of unprecedented potency. We might think that after history's mightiest lesson book – the 20th century – the west would be proof against repeating such idiocy. Yet when challenged to show prudence and maturity in response to terror, it plays the terrorist's game. It exploits the politics of fear.

Matt Ridley - soothscribe emeritus

The eminent Matt Ridley's op-ed on the crumbling of the reputation of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in today's Times (£) can be read on his blog The Rational Optimist. Solid stuff, as always.
Yesterday, after a four-month review, a committee of scientists concluded that the Nobel prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has assigned high confidence to statements for which there is very little evidence, has failed to enforce its own guidelines, has been guilty of too little transparency, has ignored critical review comments and has had no policies on conflict of interest”.

Enormous and expensive policy changes have been based on the flawed work of these scientists. Yet there is apparently to be no investigation, blame, suspension or withdrawal of papers, just a gentle bureaucratic fattening of the organisation with new full-time posts.

IPCC reports are supposed to be the gold standard account of what is - and is not - known about global warming. The panel boasts that it uses only peer-reviewed scientific literature. But its claims about mountain ice turned out to be anecdotes from a climbing magazine, its claims on the Amazon’s vulnerability to drought from a Brazilian pressure group’s website and 42 per cent of the references in one chapter proved to be to reports by Greenpeace, WWF and other “grey” literature. 

For instance, the notorious claim that glaciers in the Himalayas would disappear by 2035 seems to have been based on a misprint (for 2350) in a document issued by a pressure group. When several reviewers challenged the assertion in draft, they were ignored. When Indian scientists challenged it after publication, they were not just dismissed but vilified and accused of “voodoo science” by the IPCC chairman, Rajendra Pachauri.
Actually, it was worse than that. The original glacier claim was made by the obscure Dr Syed Hasnain, who is an employee of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), an NGO set up by the Tata Group in 1984. The Director General of TERI is . . . the railway engineer Rajandra Pachauri. The IPCC’s endorsement of Hasnain’s opinion, unsupported by research and uncorroborated by anyone else, enabled TERI to win a $500,000 grant from the Carnegie Foundation, along with a share in a €3,000,000 grant from the EU.

Ridley's last paragraphs speaks for me, only I must immodestly point out that I reached the same conclusion fifteen years ago purely by studying the internal illogic and evident profiteering-political agenda of the eek!-o-freak phenomenon.
Three years ago, not having paid much attention, I thought that IPCC reports were reliable, fair and transparent. No longer. Despite coming from a long line of coal-mining entrepreneurs, I’m not a “denier”: I think carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. I’m not even a sceptic (yet): I think the climate has warmed and will warm further. But I am now a “lukewarmer” who has yet to see any evidence saying that the current warming is, or is likely to be, unprecedented, fast or tending to accelerate.

So I have concluded that global warming will most probably be a fairly minor problem - at least compared with others such as poverty and habitat loss - for nature as well as people. After watching the ecologically and economically destructive policies enacted in its name (biofuels, wind power), I think we run the risk of putting a tourniquet round our collective necks to stop a nosebleed.

War pornographers

As a silent observer of the international journopuke brigade in El Salvador and Nicaragua back in the 1980s, I sympathize entirely with young Seema Jilani's outrage about the behaviour of their descendants in Kabul.

With a few brilliantly honourable exceptions most war correspondents do indeed spend their time in the bars of luxury hotels trying to get the hotel staff to procure women, or, if they are British journopukes, boys. The latter endeavour will presumably be easier in Kabul than it was in San Salvador and Managua.

In Central America only a couple of international journopukes got wasted, although there was severe attrition among the local journalists whose work the internationals would file under their own byline without attribution. At least in Afghanistan the drunken slags have good reason not to venture forth.

It was all summed up for me some years ago when Jon Snow was filmed - in the Baghdad Green Zone and wearing a flak vest - whining that he could not get out among the population. Since he knew that before he flew out, what possible justification was there for his being "on location" at all?

Lying with statistics - a tutorial

I confess that I dropped out of the only course I ever took on statistics because my basic mathematics was so poor that I could not keep up. So I find the following exposition extremely illuminating, and reproduce an edited version because over here we are fed such a steady ration of statistical horse-shit.

What’s the story behind the popping of the New York schools test score bubble, asks VDARE? The proximate cause was that standards were finally raised this year by New York State's Board of Regents, which is not under the control of New York City Mayor Bloomberg's control. See this NYT article

The main explanation is that the state’s tests got so easy to pass from 2006 to 2009 that whites started running out of headroom. In 2006, 77% of white students passed the math test. By 2009, that percentage had been inflated to 92% of whites. Making tests super-easy automatically narrows the racial gap as measured by the simpleminded method of subtracting the percent of blacks passing from the percent of whites passing.
In 2006, 77.2% of whites passed (blue line in the graph above) compared to 46.5% of blacks (black line), so the gap (red line) was announced as 30.7% (77.2 - 46.5 = 30.7). By 2009, 92% of whites passed versus 75% of blacks, so the gap was proclaimed to have shrunk from 31 points to 17 in just four years.

Yet, is subtracting the black passing percentage from the white passing percentage the best way to track the racial gap? Would Bloomberg and Klein get a passing grade on a math test?
If you look at failing rates rather than passing rates, and use division rather than subtraction, you’ll find the “racial ratio” (black failing rate / white failing rate) moves in the opposite direction as the percentage of whites failing falls toward zero. In 2006, 23% of white students in NYC flunked the math test compared to 53% of black students, for a black / white ratio of 2.4. By 2009, only eight percent of whites and 25% of blacks flunked, giving a black / white ratio of 3.2.

Indeed, as the percentage of whites failing approaches zero, the ratio of black to white failure rates approaches infinity. This paradox should come as a warning to us that the apparent size of racial gaps can be manipulated by clever salesmen.

In truth, using differences in percentages passing is statistical chicanery. Statisticians know that the proper way to measure differences like this is with standard deviations, not percentages.
The pseudonymous statistician La Griffe du Lion pointed out in 2001 in the above graph that the white passing percentage minus black passing percentage racial gap must be zero when either nobody passes the test or when everybody passes the test. Assuming a constant one standard deviation gap, the percentage point gap is largest (38 points) when 69% of whites pass.

So, if you start with a test on which about 69% of whites pass, you can artificially narrow the racial gap by either making the test easier or harder. It doesn’t matter!

If Mayor Bloomberg, who made his billions delivering statistics to traders, doesn’t know about standard deviations, well, Bloomberg L.P. employs hundreds of people who could have explained it to him. It is more likely that Bloomberg, a master salesman, knew that talking about gaps in percentage terms was misleading, which is why he did it.
If we make the simplifying assumption that the scores of both whites and blacks follow the normal probability distribution, we can easily plot the New York City math test passing rates in terms of standard deviations, giving us a more accurate picture. While the Bloomberg-Klein percentage method showed the racial gap narrowing almost in half from 2006 to 2009, the superior standard deviation difference (red line) shows only a slight decline through 2009. The white-black gap was 0.83 standard deviations in 2006, before falling to 0.74 in 2009, then bouncing back to 0.90 in 2010.

The Fire Department of New York tried the same tactic to avoid a disparate impact suit over the notoriously innumerate Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s rule that blacks must score at least four fifths as well as whites in percentage terms. They pushed the white passing rate on the fireman’s hiring test to 97 percent so that the black rate hit 85 percent.

So, to sum up in my own words, the intellectual development of young blacks in New York City has not improved in the slightest and arguably has suffered (by distracting educators and policy-makers from remedial action) as a result of this exercise in statistical chicanery.

I need hardly remind British readers that the entire educational system on this side of the Atlantic has been "managed" for decades to produce exactly the same false evidence of gains for disadvantaged groups.

The main thrust of the VDARE article is to support the argument in the book Bad Students, Not Bad Schools, namely that the intelligence and motivation of the students is by far the most important factor in whether a school is “bad” or “good”. I know that any such argument can be turned to racist use - but that does not make the argument itself intrinsically racist.

IQ tests were originally devised to identify those among a given population in need of special attention in order to reach a desirable level of educational achievement. The very fact that properly coached individuals can significantly improve their IQ scores proves that it is NOT a measure of innate cognitive ability.

"Comprehensive" education denies special needs, with the result that those in most need of help get shafted, while the bright ones are bored out of their minds and turn their talents to trouble-making.  

Hat-tip to Jay.

Being a lefty journopuke . . .

. . . means never having to say you're sorry. Thus the Guardian's egregious Polly Toynbee pronounces that "Labour's vain, venal has-beens should bow out and shut up", without a single word of regret for all the years her newspaper spent fellating the Blair-Brown regime, in return for a massive state advertising bribe.

Nor of apology for the fact that her oh-so-principled newspaper, having banked the last of the pay-off, came out for the LibDems just before the general election, "an act of selfish disregard for the Labour party, to whom [it] owes everything".

Oops - sorry; that of course is la Toynbee on Blair. Quite the contrary, you silly woman: the Labour party owed everything to Blair and Co., as without them it could never have won the majorities that permitted it to inject the British body politic with the HIV of over-manning and feather-bedding in the state sector.  

30 August 2010

Open question

Last paragraph of Tim Congdon's article "Downsizing The City" in Critical Reaction.
There is no evidence that any member of the government - or indeed of the UK policy-making apparatus as a whole - doubts the benefits of shrinking the financial sector, despite the fact that half its output is exported and that financial service exports are 20% of the UK’s total receipts from exports of goods and services. What does one say about the long-run economic outlook of a nation of this sort?
What indeed? Any suggestions?

Tariq Ali - soothscribe of the week

Never thought I'd ever recommend anything Tariq Ali might write, but I thoroughly recommend his article on the cricket scandal ("There's only one Imran") due to appear in the Guardian tomorrow.
How many times have I heard apologists for corrupt Pakistani politicians justifying their pillage by arguing that Europe and America also have corrupt politicians. The problem is that in Pakistan that's all we have, with few exceptions - one of whom is Imran Khan, who was also Pakistan's finest and most incorruptible captain.
Forgiving these guys for wrecking our enjoyment of cricket is difficult enough. I now have a personal grudge as well: for the first time ever I was forced to buy and read the News of the World. [LOL]
No wonder the Guardian is only printing it on page 28. He knows what he's talking about, which runs contrary to the newspaper's editorial policy of seeking enlightenment only up its own arse.

Further economic imbecility

Ha-Joon Chang, who teaches economics at Cambridge, has written a teaser for his pending book, 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism, on CiF. "We lost sight of fairness in the false promise of wealth: Acceptance of inequality rests on assumptions that 'free markets' make us all richer in the end. Growth figures tell it differently", he says.
After three decades of deregulation and tax cuts for the rich, growth has slowed down, rather than accelerated, in almost all countries. The world economy, which was growing at about 3% in per capita terms in the "bad old days" of widespread regulation and punitive taxation for the rich in the 1960s and 70s, has grown at about half that rate in the last three decades. In Britain, average annual per capita income growth rate was 2.4% in the 60s and the 70s, when the country was allegedly suffering from the "British disease"; but it fell to 1.7% during 1990 to 2009, after it is supposed to have been cured of the disease thanks to Margaret Thatcher's heroic struggle in the 1980s.
Dozens of variables are involved in economic growth and to reduce them to more or less regulation, or more or less taxation, is the work of a simpleton. So is his use of (highly dubious) statistics averaged over twenty year periods of great economic variation. Even assuming the figures Chang cites are correct, note also the cheat of comparing British growth figures with world figures instead of with those of comparable economies.  

There was nothing "alleged" about the British disease, nor anything false about the growth and prosperity that was squandered by the Blair-Brown regime in pursuit of its "equality" agenda during more than half the second period Chang selects for comparison with the golden age of nationalised industries and endless strikes.

Seems my old university is letting just anyone teach there these days. In the "bad old days", a mediocrity like Chang would not have been admitted as a student, let alone permitted to teach what he calls "economics".

Straw man economics

Jagdish Bhagwati is a 70 year-old professor of economics at New York's Columbia University and a senior fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is also an advocate of globalisation, so his heart's in the right place. One would expect anything he wrote to be the product of serious thought and well worth reading.

"There is no proof that economic health depends on manufacturing: Services are not less technologically progressive or less vital", posted today on CiF, disabuses one of that assumption rather rapidly. He writes of a revival of the "manufactures fetish" in the US and Great Britain.
The latest flirtation with supporting manufactures has come from the current crisis, especially in the financial sector, and is therefore likely to have greater prospects for survival. The fetish is particularly rampant in the US, where the Democrats in Congress have gone so far as to ally themselves with lobbyists for manufactures to pass legislation that would provide protection and subsidies to increase the share of manufactures in GDP.

Because of the financial crisis, many politicians have accepted the argument, in a virtual throwback to Adam Smith, that financial services are unproductive - even counterproductive - and need to be scaled back by governmental intervention. It is then inferred that this means that manufactures must be expanded. But this does not follow. Even if you wanted to curtail financial services, you could still focus on the multitude of non-financial services. Diesel engines and turbines are not the only alternatives; many services, like professional therapy, nursing, and teaching are available. The case for a shift to manufacturing remains unproven, because it cannot be proved.
Now the "manufactures fetish" is as fine an example of the "straw man" logical fallacy as one could wish for. The case for globalisation and against protectionism rests on Ricardo's thesis of Comparative Advantage, which argued that the gains from trade follow from allowing an economy to specialise. A country does not have to be best at anything to gain from trade. The gains follow from specializing in those activities the country is relatively better at, even though it may not have an absolute advantage in them.

Nobel laureate Paul Samuelson was once challenged by an eminent mathematician to name one true and non-trivial proposition in all of the social sciences. Samuelson replied that Comparative Advantage met the test. "That it is logically true need not be argued before a mathematician; that is is not trivial is attested by the thousands of important and intelligent men who have never been able to grasp the doctrine for themselves or to believe it after it was explained to them." 

Although Bhagwati's article fails to make what a first year economics student would know to be the killer argument against protectionism - possibly because trade in professional therapy, nursing, teaching and the like is so culturally limited - it is his slighting reference to Adam Smith that causes one to wonder how he gained his academic eminence. In The Wealth of Nations IV.2, Smith partially anticipated Ricardo:
What is prudence in the conduct of every private family, can scarce be folly in that of a great kingdom. If a foreign country can supply us with a commodity cheaper than we ourselves can make it, better buy it of them with some part of the produce of our own industry, employed in a way in which we have some advantage. The general industry of the country, being always in proportion to the capital which employs it, will not thereby be diminished . . . but only left to find out the way in which it can be employed with the greatest advantage.

29 August 2010

Mary Dejevsky - arsehole of the week

Thanks to The Count for drawing my attention to this. Mary Dejevsky is the chief editorial writer for the Independent and, according to the puff that accompanies her column, is "one of the country’s most respected commentators on Russia, the EU and the US".

"Sell Ulster, and earn a peace bonus" is the title of her offering on Friday. "How much longer must the British Government go on trying to expiate the sins of our fathers and forefathers in Northern Ireland?"

Wow. Here was me thinking it might have something to do with the will of the majority population of the province. Silly old me.
With the Protestant majority in the North smaller than it has ever been and fast-vanishing, assent to unification may anyway be just a matter of time. Would it not be in everyone's interests to hasten it along, and allow Britain to bask in a rare moment of magnanimity?
Just one teensy problem: the Republic of Ireland wouldn't have Northern Ireland as a gift, let alone pay for it. Dejevsky's conclusion is of such breath-taking stupidity that it deserves quoting in full:
It could be objected that if the UK is open to selling or ceding territory, why start with Northern Ireland? Surely it would make sense to deal first with the more acrimonious disputes, such as the Falklands or Gibraltar. But culture and language are far bigger obstacles here than they would be with Ireland and, for London, relinquishing either would be seen as a diplomatic defeat. There is no such difficulty with Northern Ireland, whose transfer to the Republic would make cultural, demographic and geographic sense. At once, the security of Britain and Ireland would be enhanced. The biggest bonus of all, though, would be that relations between Britain and Ireland, as sovereign states, would become normal in a way they have never been in recent times.
I am not the first person to note what an imbecile she is. Last year the diplomat Craig Murray blogged about "the mind-numbingly stupid Mary Dejevsky", concluding with this decidedly undiplomatic summary:
For someone who lectures us on morality, Dejevsky's own seems to be curiously pliable. Besides which, she must have fucked someone at the Independent to be writing there rather than at Mills and Boon, where she belongs.

Amazing - an almost perceptive Observer editorial

"Big business: There is profit to be made in decency", is the title of today's lead editorial in the Observer. The infantile subhead rather spoils it, though: "If governments and companies fail to behave responsibly, the stage could be set for an environmental, social and economic dystopia".
 
Waddaya mean "if" and "could be"? It's a silly sub, anyway, because the leader is entirely about corporate governance and eschews the usual doomsday hyperbole. The conclusion, for once, emphasises that individuals not only can but should act according to their principles instead of yapping for "the government" to do it. 
Large businesses are complex, multifaceted organisations and few, if any, could claim to be beyond reproach. But it is not just the men and women running our largest companies who need to think more deeply about the need to balance profit and consumerism against the environment and human rights. We all do, as shoppers, pension fund members, employees and small investors. We blame business leaders for putting the planet at risk, for exploiting poor people in the developing world and for paying themselves too much, but most of us don't bother to act by voting at a company AGM, protesting to our pension fund trustee or checking on the supply chain of our T-shirts and gadgets. Companies can be a force for good. We must expect it of them and punish them if they are not.

28 August 2010

Bad for democracy, bad for Britain

At 4:30 today the BBC interviewed Nick Chapman, the chief executive of NHS Direct, who strongly supported the government's decision to phase in a new organization for the service. The interviewer was displeased. No interviews with GPs, who all regard NHS Direct as a dangerous as well as expensive folly.

The corporation struck back by replaying hostile interviews by Labour politicians Frank Dobson and John Prescott, and adding new ones from Labour leadership postulant Andrew Burnham and a UNISON cow. The evening news on BBC 1 featured only Burnham's partisan comments.

This sort of thing has been going on for decades, yet for a majority of Brits the corporation is still the beneficiary of the same Pavlovian "envy of the world" response that long greeted any criticism of the NHS. I find it very hard to believe that the government is powerless in the face of such blatant and sustained bias.

Gonzo

Journalism is not a profession or a trade. It is a cheap catch-all for fuckoffs and misfits – a false doorway to the backside of life, a filthy piss-ridden little hole nailed off by the building inspector, but just deep enough for a wino to curl up from the side-walk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo-cage.

Hunter Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas 

Bad omen

According to an on-line analyzer (here), I write like David Foster Wallace, described by his book editor as "one of the most influential and innovative writers of the last 20 years".

Sadly he was clinically depressed for half his short life, and hanged himself two years ago. In 2005 he said:
The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day . . . The only thing that's capital-T True is that you get to decide how you're going to try to see it. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn't . . . The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness.
RIP, David Foster Wallace. I wish I'd known of you in life.

Worse omen
Two further, separate samples of my writing produced the verdict: H.P. Lovecraft, an American author of horror, fantasy and "weird fiction" who died in abject poverty in 1937. This piece from 1926 is cheery:
The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

Value for money at university

Posting on CiF, a third year Politics undergraduate at UEA says that non-science students don't get much tuition for their money. What she describes is par for the course in the Humanities - you are expected to get on with it mainly by yourself, and it is not apparent what value she believes would be added by more tuition:
For her £3,290, my [Maths-reading] housemate receives approximately 16 hours of formal tuition per week in the form of lectures, seminars and problem classes. As an arts student, I have never received more than eight hours' tuition in a week. In the second semester of my final year, I face just two hours per week. Figures similar to these can be identified throughout most, if not all, universities in the UK. So why is it that I receive half the amount of tuition, for the same price as my housemate?
The nub of her concern, made acute by the imminence of graduation, is:
. . . the seeming ease with which science students find employment when compared with arts students. I receive internship alerts from a leading graduate employment firm and I still find myself amazed at the number and variety of internships that are tailored towards those with degrees in the sciences. Therefore, we see arts and social science students emerging from university having had less tuition than many of their peers and with worse prospects for the future, yet with similar amounts of debt, having paid the same amount of money.
The last part is unanswerable, and is a powerful argument for permitting universities to charge differential fees. The first part, alas, simply registers that employers reckon that only "hard" degrees offer proof that a candidate is disciplined and hard-working. Were she to check out lower down the examination scale, she would see that universities are practising the same triage to sort out the mass of candidates with multiple "A" levels.

It's called the market, and although the teachers' unions have redefined "outcomes" to mean box-ticking, the only outcome that matters is the one that enables young people to develop their potential to the full. And that is hard to do when you can't get a job.

The brothers Millipede

Beautiful solution to the problem of knowing which is which on The Appalling Strangeness:
David, with his faintly pained expression and little tuft of white hair, resembles a baby badger with constipation. Ed appears to have a head that looks like an overcooked baked potato with hair crudely stuck on it. This is the best way to tell them apart, since there's been nothing in the campaign so far to aid with it - despite the fact that Badger Boy and Potato (now, there's a pitch for a TV show for kids, right there) have been running against each other. This week, there seems to have been greater attempt to put clear divides between them, and it appears the Badger Boy is the continuity candidate who doesn't mind change while Potato is all about change but won't do away with continuity with the past.

Coming out

At the age of 50, Prisons Minister Crispin Blunt has left his wife of 20 years, by whom two children, to "come to terms with his homosexuality". One presumes there is a discovered boy-friend involved, but whatever the proximate cause there is reason to celebrate whenever a politician renounces hypocrisy in his private life.

Was he also hypocritical in public life? Someone has very quickly edited his Wikipedia entry to read that his voting record in Parliament "had previously been broadly unsympathetic towards gay rights", but in fact it reflects the sort of passage from denial to acceptance that one would expect.

Meanwhile the Telegraph reports that an unnamed, married cabinet minister has been accused of having an affair with a Whitehall official and of having a long-term relationship with a journalist.
He has strongly denied the allegations. Senior Downing Street aides are braced this weekend for “suggestive” reports to begin surfacing over the Cabinet minister’s private life. Friends of the minister have warned that he will not hesitate to take “action” should unfounded allegations that he is homosexual, which are circulating on the internet [and which identify him as William Hague], appear in mainstream media.
Now that all the legal proscriptions are gone, it seems to me the final liberation of homosexuals must be personal and one hopes, in future, private. Unless a public figure has made political capital out of misrepresenting his or her private life, then I don't think it's any of my - or anyone else's - business.

I used to think that the crotch-snuffling voyeurism and gossip that characterises British journopukery was just one aspect of the general dominance of male homosexuals in all aspects of British culture; but I now believe it's merely a reflection of the shallowness of whole enterprise, which attracts bitchy homs and heteros alike.

Liberty - "stolen" or "given up"?

"The Big Society should be the means by which people reclaim duties and rights stolen from them by overwhelming bureaucracies" reads the title of a short piece in Conservative Home by Francis Davis, an academic and social entrepreneur (whatever that means).

If only it were that simple. I do not believe one can defend the postulate that bureaucracies "stole" rights - indeed the evidence of the last 13 years is that the majority of Britons are all-too willing to surrender rights they do not value in order to be relieved of duties that interfere with the serious business of what to eat, drink and fuck next.

Not sure if I have previously blogged about the moment in the mid-70s when it all came clear to me. I had taken my young sons to see the animals at Woburn Abbey, and we paused to check out a modest dolphin show. I commented to the keeper that it was a shame the tank was so small, and he replied, "Yes it is - but the government won't give us a grant to build a bigger one".

Bam - apotheosis. Why the HELL should the government help to fund anything in a for-profit concern being run in the ancestral lands of the Duke of Bedford?   

I'm not going to be churlish and argue that the Thatcher years made no impact on the near-universal mind-set of the 1970s, but the anecdote does illustrate what a very steep slope she set out to climb, dragging an inert when not also vociferously protesting party and society behind her. 

I simply do not believe that the intellectual heirs of the oaf she replaced and the dweeb who succeeded her as leader of the Conservative party have the moral courage to hold up the mirror to British society as she did. She dragged the horse to water, which was all anyone could have done. But the nag refused to drink.

Sound governance in emerging markets

Useful article on comparative fiscal management by Desmond Lachman in The American. The argument is well illustrated by two charts. The first was produced by Bill Gross, head of Pacific Investment Management Co., the world’s largest bond fund, to illustrate that while the public finances of Japan, Greece and Italy are far down the unsustainable path, France, USA, Britain, Ireland and Spain are all heading the same way:

For the "Ring of Fire" economies, lackluster growth is likely in the years ahead because high budget deficit levels will bring higher interest rates, as governments compete with their private sectors for financing. Private sector confidence will be further undermined by the prospect of higher taxes to pay for a public sector that will fiercely resist any change to the status quo. Obviously these considerations are of particular relevance to Britain, which has the highest state sector deficit as a percentage of GDP.

The second chart contrasts the public debt levels of the "Ring of Fire" countries with those of the emerging market economies, which, with the notable exception of India, range between 40 to 50 percent of GDP. Given their relatively small budget deficits, it is likely their public debt levels will remain at healthy levels.

In the years immediately ahead, the article concludes, emerging markets will retain many of the advantages that have favored their rapid growth in the recent past, amplified by their sounder public finances. There is every reason to expect that, as they become even more significant in the global economy, they will become increasingly vocal in pressing their case for their representation in international economic organizations like the International Monetary Fund to reflect their rapidly rising relative importance.

27 August 2010

The Sources of American Anger

This article by Victor Davis Hanson in NRO fairly summarizes most of the email traffic I am getting from friends in the States. I summarize his points below:
  1. The public senses there are two standards in America - one for elite overseers, quite another for the supposedly not-to-be-trusted public. 
  2. The bigot card has played itself out and is now not much more than a political ploy to win an argument through calumny when logic and persuasion have failed.
  3. Many believe the Obama administration applies the law in terms of perceived social utility. What is deemed best for the country by an elite few is what the law must be molded and changed to advance.
  4. The public recognizes that the advocates of higher taxes are not willing to make the sort of across-the-board spending cuts that once succeeded in balancing the budget.
  5. There is also a growing belief that the Obama administration is advancing an agenda that it cannot be fully candid about, because that agenda does not command broad support.
  6. Finally, the public has added up the apology tours, the bowing, and the constant emphasis on race, class, and gender crimes, and concluded that this administration sees America, past and present, as the story of a culpable majority denying noble minorities their rights - period.
Well, mutatis mutandis that is what the Brits lapped up for the last thirteen years, and would cheerfully have continued lapping up if the combination of an odious prime minister and a crisis in the financial system had not brought the process to a temporary halt.

Even so, 29% of the electorate voted for more of the same, and 23% voted for the LibDems, the great majority of whom would sneer superciliously at the sources of anger Hanson lists. Actually, I wonder how many Conservatives feel any real anger about what has happened to Britain. As Yeats wrote:

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity

Perfect headline

In "The World" section of today's Times: Football fans riot over plans to prevent hooliganism

Past the tipping point

When Thatcher's closest political friend and Secretary of Education Keith Joseph was persuaded by his officials not to introduce choice into public education because "people might make the wrong choices", the last chance to halt the slide towards a totally politicised educational system was missed. State education in Britain is now mainly concerned with social engineering and cares little about teaching and learning, and there's no way back.

Michael Gove's proposals will not lead to a turn-around, because the power of the leftist teachers' unions in alliance with the local authorities will kill any attempt by school principals to break out of the spiral of failure in the catchment areas that most need to do so. The Spectator cites an example:
A headmistress in a predominantly black inner-city school  was ‘outed’ when Gove’s department released names of schools interested in applying for independent status. She received a letter by an official from the National Union of Teachers, angry that she had not revealed her plans earlier. A copy of their exchange has been seen by The Spectator. "This fundamental attack on state schools, held democratically accountable through local authorities," said the NUT letter, "apparently means very little to you."

"We are absolutely not seeking a conflict," the letter continued. "Nonetheless we regard these proposals as a fundamental attack on state education and will, for the sake of our members and the children we teach, do everything we can to stop any school becoming an academy. And this includes industrial action and campaigning amongst the parents." 

26 August 2010

The Civil Service

The following is the conclusion of the fifth post by Reform in the Spectator, looking ahead to the Spending Review. The first four were on Health, Education, the First Hundred Days and Welfare. All worth reading.
The Civil Service is expensive, but the real issue is that it is not good at its job. The root cause is the lack of accountability for performance. The Cabinet Office structural reform plan makes not one mention of accountability. Instead, the Government’s approach centralises more decisions on headcount, procurement and governance.

As with all areas of the public sector, politicians shouldn’t take a personal view on the size of the Civil Service. They should make it accountable and then leave it to get on with its job. Bringing in big hitters from the private sector will not change the predilection to spend rather than save.

Real reform in the Civil Service means making it accountable for every penny it spends and every person it employs. Reform has recommended that democratically elected politicians should be able – openly – to hire and fire senior officials, on the Australian model. Officials themselves would become visible and accountable, contrary to the current doctrine of ministerial accountability.
I was surprised to learn that the Civil Service accounts for only 527,000 of 6.1 million people employed in the state sector, and that it had only grown by five percent since 1999. The four largest  departments are Work and Pensions (134,000), Revenue & Customs (87,000), Justice (85,000) and Defence (77,000).

I guess the reason why Whitehall is so expensive is that about half of them are in “management” positions. Managing what, apart from decline, I wonder?

Dave Brown - contemptible lefty shit

To celebrate the birth of Samantha and David Cameron's baby girl, today's offering by the resident cartoonist for the Independent ("Free From Party Political Ties") shows Cameron and Clegg as father and mother holding a satanic, drooling, axe-wielding baby wearing a T-shirt with "Stuff the Poor" on it.

Not that it comes as any surprise that British lefty scum have no sense of decency, but one would have thought the Independent ("Free From Party Political Ties") might not want to alienate such few fair-minded readers as it still attracts.

A new-born child brings out the best in all normal human beings. Dave Brown and his editor do not qualify.

American is not English

At least not when discussing politics. "Progressives against Progress" in today's City Journal illustrates the point very clearly.

First of all by making a distinction between what Americans (and me-tooist Brits) call "liberals" and "their socialist cousins". There is no distinction to be made. Understanding would be best served by eschewing these terms altogether to describe the lefty Gadarene swine as statists.

Secondly by grossly misrepresenting what 19th century Tory Radicalism stood for: "Like the Tory Radicals, today’s liberal gentry see the untamed middle classes as the true enemy". Horse-shit. Tory Radicalism sought to challenge the Liberal Party for the votes of the lower classes in what was still an oligarchical political system. And it was very successful. Even the Labour Party did not win a majority of the working class vote until 1945.

What the author calls "today's liberal gentry" have nothing in common with the values of the old landed aristocracy beyond, perhaps, a shared disdain for the class immediately below theirs. But while non-radical Tories did indeed look down on the aspirational middle class, the values of today's "liberals" express the secret fears of the clerical lower-middle class, determined to make the class barrier below them as impermeable as possible.  

It is they whose "disdain for democracy and for the habits of their inferiors remains undiminished". Tory Radicals in fact appreciated that there was a rich vein of conservatism in the working class, and mined it very successfully.

"Progressive" and "Fair"

Sigh. Even Guido Fawkes has fallen into the lefty semantic trap.
The whole argument about whether or not the budget was progressive was a foolish one for the Coalition to engage in. The left defines a “progressive budget” as one that benefits those on lowest incomes most. Since the population decile on the lowest incomes is overwhelmingly composed of those on welfare it means that no tax cutting budget, even if it disproportionately benefits the lowest paid by raising thresholds, can ever be “progressive”.
So far so good. But he goes on to advocate using "fair" instead, apparently oblivious to the fact that thanks to the Bitchy Boys and much of the the rest of the British media, fairness is equated with the same policies.

For the centre right to take control of the narrative, it simply has to take a page from the lefty play book and never, ever go on the defensive. Sadly, Cameron and Clegg lack the steel, and the whole coalition reflects their "niceness".

There's another word that makes me cringe. What's "nice" about being wishy-washy?

25 August 2010

Need a new category term

Arseholes write crap. That much is obvious.

But what body part accolade should we bestow on those who think clearly and write cogently?

Suggestions?

Hair-splitting as an art form

The following from the second leader in today's Times sets the bar very high indeed. The editorial is about the murdering bastard James Chesney, a Roman Catholic priest we let walk back in 1972 even though we knew he was responsible for a daisy-chain of car bombs that killed nine people in the village of Claudy.

Claudy's sole "offence" in the eyes of the Provisional IRA, the fascist* organization created by Chesney and other Catholic priests with the backing of future Irish premier Charles Haughey, was that Protestants and Catholics lived there peacefully side-by-side. Five of the dead were Catholic, the other four Protestant.

Anyway, here's the hair-split:
The temptation to draw parallels between Father Chesney and more recent preachers of Islamic terror is strong, but should be resisted. There is no suggestion that Father Chesney was a religious terrorist. Rather it is thought that he was a political sectarian terrorist who happened to be a priest.
How can anyone write such drivel?

*I am using the word with historical accuracy. PIRA was an ultra-nationalist, religious sectarian movement formed in opposition to the Official IRA, which was Marxist and secular. Haughey was the most corrupt Irish politician since De Valera, who made independent Ireland a Roman Catholic theocracy.

Simon Jenkins - non-arsehole of the week

In a CiF article yesterday, Simon Jenkins spoke from his experience as a former member of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) with reference to its refusal to permit a proper domestic market for donor eggs and sperm, resulting in an acute shortage of both that forces "soaring" numbers of infertile couples abroad to get the treatment they require.
If we do not pay what the market requires, we will get shortage, profiteering and unfairness. The welfare state has become monumental proof of this. Yet it still treats money as something dirty, likely to bring out the worst in people – except its suppliers. 

The public sector still lurks in the shadow of postwar socialism. The result is an imbalance of demand and supply, and profiteering by the beneficiaries. Compared with most of Europe, Britain has overcrowded surgeries, desperate universities and jammed motorways, while doctors, dentists, vice-chancellors and road contractors walk away with shedloads of money.
There's no "if". The British state is irrationally opposed to the concept of price as information. It is also a vast patronage racket run by its administrators for their own benefit, extensive to "people like us". The composition of the beneficiary group may vary slightly according to the political cycle, but the racket remains the same.

Politicians and journopukes alike rabbit on about how "fairness" is such a key component of Britishness. It's bull-shit. The defining characteristics of British society are envy and moral cowardice, both clearly expressed in the "equality" agenda, designed to appease the worst elements in society by discouraging the best.

But envy is pathological - there is always something you have that the envious will hate you for having. The Labour party is the political expression of that pathology, very effective in channeling the worst instincts of society for its own benefit. The British state is the product of that process, and since the envious cannot be made happy, all must be made equally miserable.

P.S. Just read this post in the Spectator blog about the Equalities Act, by which "Labour transferred power from parliament (where it was about to lose) to the courts (where the lefty judiciary reign supreme). Their calculation was that if they did this quietly enough, and in technicalities, the Cameroons would not wise up to it because of their aversion to detail. Cameron should have repealed the Equalities Act instantly". Indeed - but would the LibDems have gone along with the abolition? 

24 August 2010

Welfare reform - make or break for this government

If David Cameron backs his trustafarian compadre* George Osborne against Iain Duncan Smith, he can kiss the Coalition and, probably, his hopes for re-election good-bye. For all the blather about the Big Society, the future of compassionate Conservatism is fully invested in the figure of IDS and his plans to give hope to those marginalised and kept down by the Welfare State.

IDS is seventeen years older than Osborne, and has the distinction of having been the only Tory leader ever elected by the party instead of the MPs. He has taken command of the massive Ministry of Work and Pensions because he possesses deep expertise derived from years of consultation with past and present W&P officials. The lack of damaging leaks suggests he has done so in a collegiate manner. Fiercely defending his staff from patronising Treasury pukes won't have done him any harm, either.

Osborne has neither the life experience nor the understanding of economics to be other than a puppet of the Treasury pukes. They are bean-counters, and it is not their job to tell ministers how they must distribute revenues. When they have been permitted to do so in the past, it has unfailingly been a political disaster.
 
The Cameron-Osborne duo owe their eminence to the machinations of Michael Howard, IDS's successor as party leader despite having been the most hated minister in the hapless John Major's administration. They command the calculating head of the Conservative party - its heart belongs with IDS and David Davies

Should Cameron-Osborne insist on cutting the welfare budget during a recession, they will be simultaneously giving renewed credibility to the tired "cuts versus investment" mantra of the currently discredited Labour party, may well precipitate a split within their LiDem coalition allies and, if IDS resigns, complete the alienation of a fairly substantial number of their own party members.

Beyond that, by any measure of political decency and common humanity, the weak should be sheltered as far as possible from the consequences of the profligacy and irresponsibility of the strong. The ultra-privileged duo occupying Numbers 10 and 11 Downing Street must make it abundantly clear that they will do so. 

* compadre = co-godfather (It. & Sp.); from which also = bosom friend. Both true in this case.

Sufi or not Sufi - that is the question

Thanks to Jay for drawing my attention to a New Republic article about the writings of Feisal Abdul Rauf, Sufi leader of the Cordoba Initiative involved in the cause célèbre of the Islamic centre to be built near the site of the Twin Towers. He sounds like a clever man, with a fine ironic sense of humour.

It seem the US Declaration of Independence Constitution “express the Islamic ideal, which is itself but an expression of the Abrahamic ethic.” Better yet, “the American Constitution and system of governance uphold the core principles of Islamic law.” Finally, Rauf writes, “the overarching American religion that all Americans live under is ‘Islamic’ in the sense that it is fully compliant with and expresses the Islamic Shariah,” which, it seems, is predicated on religious pluralism.

"No wonder the Imam is at this moment lecturing in the Gulf States on the State Department’s dime" pants the New Republic contributor. "No wonder the Bush State Department made similar use of him to win hearts and minds. He’s promoting the American social and political system. He wants to Americanize the Muslim world in the way that counts - by promoting our political institutions".

Well, good luck with that anywhere outside the few urban and westernised enclaves in the Islamic world. But it appears to me that Rauf may be doing something far more subtle: he is pointing out that Americans have made a religious cult of documents drawn up by humanists who would have been revolted by the words "In God we trust" that first appeared - with unwitting irony - on coinage in the mid nineteenth century and was made the official national motto by an Act of Congress in 1956.

I am quite sure that Rauf is fully aware that a sign over the counters of bars all over the USA reads: "In God we trust - everybody else pays cash".

The Dawkins Delusion

More 4 is recycling Richard Dawkins' two-part sales pitch for his book The God Delusion, first broadcast as "The Root of All Evil" by Channel 4 four and a half years ago. The teaser features the ever-smug Dawkins saying that only religion can cause good people to do bad things.

Anyone with the slightest awareness of metaphysics knows that to be an infantile postulate. Furthermore it runs directly contrary to the ideas of kin selection and of reciprocal altruism (doing someone a favour in the expectation of getting one in return) strongly upheld by Dawkins in The Selfish Gene.

Muslim suicide bombers, the proximate inspiration for The God Delusion, may have a false expectation of reward in the hereafter - but they also believe that they are serving their ethnic group, and have a founded expectation that their families will be honoured because of their self-sacrifice.

American biologists Richard Lewontin and Stephen Jay Gould were acutely aware that the internationalist socialism they treasured was incompatible with the views popularised by Dawkins, and took him to task over them in the so-called "Darwin Wars" of the 1980s. They argued, I believe correctly, that biological determinism (known as "Sociobiology" after a book by that name by the entomologist Edward Wilson) was indistinguishable from Social Darwinism, which gave the world Fascism and Nazism.

Lewontin and Gould were not wrong about Dawkins: he strongly favours a sharp reduction in human population, and we all know where that line of reasoning leads. 

The most likely explanation for Dawkins' intellectual dishonesty is that he is actually rather simple-minded and cannot see the glaring contradictions between his allegedly scientific argument, and his support of left-wing causes that depend on moral justifications mainly derived from religion.   

23 August 2010

Police forensics

Deeply disturbing report in Reason about an investigation of North Carolina's State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) crime lab that found evidence of systematic perversion of justice, including in death penalty cases.
The report found that SBI agents withheld exculpatory evidence or distorted evidence in more than 230 cases over a 16-year period. Three of those cases resulted in execution. There was widespread lying, corruption, and pressure from prosecutors and other law enforcement officials on crime lab analysts to produce results that would help secure convictions. And the pressure worked.
The SBI crime lab scandal is only the most recent story of forensics malfeasance. In recent years there have been forensics scandals in Virginia, Maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Nebraska, California, Michigan, Texas, and at the FBI. And this is only a partial list. At some point, it becomes sensible to conclude that these scandals aren't the result of isolated bad actors, but of a system that produces them.
Given that I have very low expectations of any state agency, why do I find it disturbing? Because the British police depend more on forensics than any of the US police forces or even the FBI. It was what the British police turned to after judges stopped tolerating their "fitting up" of suspects in the late 1970s. Science, not undependable detectives and their sleazy informers, would ensure safe convictions.

The emphasis on DNA in crime solution, in which Britain was a world pioneer, led to the police recovering some of the prestige - although considerably less of the public trust - lost to the overturned convictions and revelations about senior police officers living cheek-by-jowl with notorious gangsters on the Costa del Dosh.

So the question that now forms in my mind is: did the leopard change its spots? Did forensics drive out the culture of corruption in the police forces of Britain, or did that culture find a way to corrupt forensics?

The problem is that there is no form of independent oversight in this country, and not the smallest chance in hell that any Minister of Justice would order the sort of investigation by qualified outsiders that Attorney General Roy Cooper ordered in North Carolina.

In the absence of such oversight, it is a racing certainty that the crime labs of our police forces and the Met are every bit as corrupted by pressure to produce convictions as their peers across the pond.

Why the "Big Society" will fail

Yes, I know this article is in the Mail, but it pays among the highest wages in the journopuke sector, has the highest circulation of any daily and even those who define themselves by loathing what it stands for very, very seldom dare to question the accuracy of its reporting.

The article - a long interview with an anonymous senior planning officer - is not really news at all. Most people know that local authorities - regardless of the dominant party - are over-manned, chronically unproductive, and corrupt. The trend to over-centralization that accelerated under Margaret Thatcher was driven by those facts, plus the fiscally irresponsible loopiness of councils that fell to arseholes posing as revolutionaries.

David Cameron's "Big Society" seeks to resolve the problem another way, by empowering citizens to create alternatives to statist "solutions" that never solve anything. It's a great idea, and it might work - if only we could import millions of ethnic Chinese and export a like number of made-in-Britain scrotes.

But who would have them? The most staggering fact of the last decade is that the Labour regime created jobs only in the feather-bedded state sector, and most of those jobs went to immigrants, because the British unemployed lack basic skills, motivation and self-discipline. Cool Britannia, innit?    

I'm in no doubt the article's conclusion is correct: Britain is a long way past the point of no return, and the drain of statist parasitism will continue until the society is reduced to a husk. I weep for my grandchildren.
Cuts and pay freezes are desperately needed, but the one thing Mr Osborne will never be able to control is the culture of inertia and inefficiency that is rife throughout the public sector.
 

Of course, when I tell my friends in the private sector about my working conditions, they can scarcely believe it. As the recession bites, they consider themselves lucky to be holding on to their jobs, and are willing to work extra hours or take a pay freeze to ensure their firm's survival.

In the public sector, though, there is no competitive edge; no incentive to cuts costs or improve efficiency. Few genuinely fear for their job security, protected as they are by threats of union action every time the axe looks likely to fall.
It's the same story across the world: when a nation's public sector is allowed to expand into a bloated behemoth, it is almost impossible to cut it down to size, still less to change the culture of waste and laziness that sets in.

Labour is "nasty" - ooooh!

Andrew Marr's cuckqueaned wife Jackie Ashley laments in CiF that "by playing nasty [against the LibDems], Labour is wrecking its own chances".

The electorate turned against the partisan tone of Labour in power, she says, and likes the collegiate and good-humoured attitude of the coalition government. If Labour plays nice, then it can win over the LibDems and regain power. "Labour's proper response is to keep acknowledging past failings and stay politely aloof."

What acknowledgment of past failings is she talking about? What failings does she admit to, indeed? Not a word - although even an unconditional NuLabourite like Mrs Marr should at least concede the possibility that the electorate turned against the Labour regime because people were tired of endless spin, the government was led by a hated bully whom nobody had the guts to oppose, and who had made a total mess of the economy? 

Reminds me of Teresa May telling the Tories in 2002 that their biggest problem was being seen as "the nasty party". What bullshit. Their biggest problems were that they had not faced up to the consequences of a decade of internal divisions and total disloyalty to their leaders, which they continued to display towards the charisma-lite Iain Duncan-Smith, the leader chosen by party members, and they were up against the still very popular Tony Blair at a time of growing prosperity.
For many Lib Dem activists, the price of winning the alternative vote is not worth the pain of helping deliver a Tory-dominated cuts agenda, slashing public services and increasing inequality. Is that what the long tradition of social radicalism the party represents amounts to?
By any measure, social inequality increased under the Labour regime. One hopes that people will remember that, also that the "cuts agenda" was forced upon the Coalition by the Labour regime having increased government expenditure far beyond the ability of the country to pay for it even before the financial crisis.

I don't think you can polish a turd, but who knows? Maybe the LibDems will choose to commit electoral suicide by showing that they cannot hack it in office, and the Brits will buy into the big lie once more.

P.S. See this piece by Ed Milliband in CiF the next day. I cannot imagine anything that could do more to help Clegg to keep his party united and in government than this mendacity-packed appeal to LibDem voters to defect to Labour

22 August 2010

Eric the snoopocrat slayer


The cornerstone of the NuLabour regime's comprehensive assault on British civil liberties was the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (2000), which was sold as offering greater protection from Big Brother by regulating the use of surveillance by the police and security services.

In fact, by extending the justification from the limiting scope of national security to the broad remit of protecting public health and the "economic well-being" of Britain, it became a charter for the mean-spirited little shits who form the backbone of any leftist party: the curtain-twitchers who seek compensation for the inadequacy of their own lives by interfering with the lives of others and who gravitate to local politics.

Fresh from abolishing the squalid monster that the Audit Commission had become, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric "the Man" Pickles' next target is the power to snoop that should never have been given to such people. The Coalition's Programme for Government states:
We will ban the use of powers in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) by councils, unless they are signed off by a magistrate and required for stopping serious crime.
I am more than a little worried that "stopping serious crime" leaves the back door open for snoopocrats who can count on like-minded magistrates, but I am timidly confident that Pickles is shrewd enough to close it.

Let all who value civil liberties pray daily that - contrary to appearances - he is watching his cholesterol, because he appears to be the only member of this government who realizes how easy it is to demolish the rancid edifice built by Blair and Brown and their utterly contemptible followers.

Kelly's suicide.

In a previous post I explained that I had "been troubled by the 2003 death of Dr David Kelly, ever since the surgeon who was scheduled to cut me open scoffed at the idea that Kelly could have died form the relatively shallow cut he is alleged to have made in his left wrist, in a cool environment that would have hastened clotting."

"Given that official inquiries have a well-merited reputation for applying white-wash to unsightly blemishes in the conduct of public affairs", I added, "it is reasonable to become suspicious when they do not answer such fundamental questions."

In today's Sunday Times Nicholas Hunt, the pathologist who examined Kelly's body for eight hours makes public facts that the official inquiry into Kelly's death banned from publication for 70 YEARS. It seems Kelly suffered from heart disease so severe that he could have dropped dead at any moment. Consequently blood loss that would have been unlikely to cause the death of a healthy man was more than enough to see him off.

Had my surgeon known that, he would not have spoken as he did - and I would not have repeated his comments when asked about the Kelly case after giving lectures on spooks and spookery.

As I read the ST article, at first I thought I should eat a crow. But on reflection I'll be damned if I will, because in fact - while dispersing the doubts I previously had - it confirms the main point of my earlier post: conspiracy theories arise because official inquiries fail to answer fundamental questions.

Nick Cohen on Kelly

The BBC, the press and politicians betrayed David Kelly, says Nick Cohen on CiF. Yes, yes - guilt is diffuse, so nobody can be held to account. Standard limp lefty ethics. Heard it all before, ad nauseam.

But Cohen's argument - that it is ridiculous to blame Blair - trips over the internal contradictions of his article. Who expressed a desire to "fuck Gilligan" (the BBC journopuke who broadcast the story about Campbell having "sexed up" the dossier presented to Parliament to justify the invasion of Iraq) and kicked off the whole witch-hunt? Geoff Hoon, Blair's Secretary for Defence.Who was it who set out to pillory Kelly, once identified as Gilligan's source? Alastair Campbell, Blair's press fixer. Who presented that dossier to Parliament, knowing it to be "economical with the truth"? Prime Minister Blair.

Beyond the narrow issue of the hapless Kelly, Blair has steadfastly refused to admit that Campbell's dossier was a load of crap, Blair promoted the head of the Joint Intelligence Committee who let Campbell edit the JIC's findings, Blair undertook to join the invasion without seeking any quid pro quo from President Bush, and Blair failed to get the MoD and the Treasury to work together, leading to military humiliation and, ultimately, the diplomatic catastrophe of the USA concluding that Britain was no longer a dependable ally.    

Damn it - if the buck does not stop with Blair, then nobody is responsible for anything, ever. 

Sure, the BBC behaved with its customary mixture of institutional arrogance and moral cowardice, and the press behaved like a pack of hyenas. Nothing unusual there. Likewise Kelly was doing no more than Whitehall bureaucrats do every day to discredit some government decision or other they perceive as damaging to their departmental interest. They all deserve to be sacked, but since it seems that is politically impossible the best that can be done is to punish a particularly egregious offender from time to time.

Cohen misses the point: blaming Blair for the death of Kelly is a distraction from the central issue, which is that he should be impeached for a massive failure of public policy that took place entirely on his watch and obedient to his will. Even the dossier was the product of a personal political failure: all he had to do was to make the invasion a vote of confidence, and most of the Labour rebels would have fallen into line.

No chance he would be found guilty, but it would permit all the accusations to be dealt with and achieve the kind of closure that will never come about for as long as moral relativism is permitted to smother justice.

20 August 2010

Stagflation

Well, whoop-de-do. What a forehead-smacking surprise. ASI reports that the Governor of the Bank of England is sanguine that the present surge in inflation is due to temporary factors such as the rise in VAT, rising energy costs and the increased cost of imports following the devaluation of sterling. It will all settle down as the economy recovers, while spare capacity in the labour market will bring down inflation.

Couldn't be anything to do with having printed an extra £200 billion, could it? No, says Mervyn King, because the British economy will bounce back and give post hoc justification for having printed an ocean of money. Hmm, let's see: the sole area of increased employment over the last ten years has been the state sector, whose inflationary pay settlements were paid for by borrowing against the projected future revenues from a financial sector that was permitted to overheat to self-destruction under the supervision of - Mervyn King.

Neither of those growth hormones are still flowing through the British economy, but there's nothing to worry about. Why, just look at the great results Keynesian spending produced in the British economy back in the 60s and 70s! The wonder of the world, we were; and will be again - by doing exactly the same things that produced such excellent results the last time. Can't fail.

A society that chronically imports more than it exports, and a government that chronically spends more than it collects in revenues, has once again produced stagnation combined with inflation. Over a century ago, George Santayana said something that, in stark contrast to the tenets of "progressivism", has proved true ever since:
Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

19 August 2010

The Caucasus Emirate

The latest bulletin from Stratfor on the Caucasus makes intriguing reading. If the single-source account of the role of the Russian FSB in discrediting Doku Umarov and his dream of a North Caucasian Emirate is true - damn, they're good!

The most serious threat to Russian imperial expansion into the Caucasus was led by Shamil, an ethnic Avar from Dagestan. The so-called Caucasian War was the Russian conquest of the North Caucasian Muslim tribes, including Dagestanis, Chechens, Ingush, Ossetians, Karachay and Circassians.

Shamil became chief among those leading a united resistance in the name of a Caucasian Imamate, and was the third and last Imam from 1834 until captured in 1859. His grandson played a leading role in the short-lived Republic of the Northern Caucasus (1917-20).

One can well understand why the FSB should have been very keen to prevent history repeating itself.

"Underclass"

Arguably the most pernicious of all the Americanisms that lefty me-tooist Brits have swallowed in the manner of Monica Lewinsky is the concept of an "underclass". The term made little sense in its country of origin, which generally rejects social class as an alien concept, but for class hustling low-mid Brit lefties it came as a welcome alternative to Marx's "sub-proletariat", all-too similar to "sub-human".

The term embodies a pronounced difference in expectations among classes, whereby pathological behavior is held to define the "underclass" rather than being a possible consequence of being held to a lower standard of behaviour. Lip service to the "poor and uneducated" aside, nobody stops to ask why after over a century of universal free education there can still be uneducated people, or why all the wars and programs to eradicate poverty have simply moved the cash boundaries, and feed the pathologies they were supposed to cure.

The New York Times is the preeminent journal of European-style US social democrats, who choose to call themselves liberals. There is nothing remotely Liberal, in the historic sense, about them, but that is part and parcel of the American penchant for meaning-blurring euphemism. The NYT's class snobbery is relentlessly expressed in terms of intelligence or the lack thereof. Thus they pursue the illusion of wealth and dress gaudily to put on airs; we are not so stupid. We mortgage ourselves to the limit and buy expensive "eco-friendly" cars to . . . um . . .  reflect our status.

Despite my distaste for the Brit obsession with class, within that discourse it is reasonably clear that the great American middle in fact embodies the values and vices of the lower middle class, desperately anxious to make the boundary with the lower class as impermeable as possible. Not for nothing is the cornerstone of US welfare provisions called Social Security. The concept of an "underclass" serves that function very well.

Nor should we forget that much of the lower middle class depends on the state for employment and "status", not least the army of "social workers" and their departmental bureaucracies, which have no objective self-interest whatsoever in reducing the size or improving the behaviour of their client base. 

Amusingly, I even have a quotation from Marx and Engels to support my thesis. In The German Ideology they wrote that each emerging social class "represents its interests as the common interests of all members of society" and its ideas as "the only rational, universally valid ones".

The implications of this across the whole range of subjects I blog about is manifest. Within the discourse of class, much that I find odious in Britain and in the States finds a partial explanation in the frantic attempt of the lower middle class to create an environment in which it feels secure, and where mediocrity - its defining characteristic - is accepted as the highest aspiration of mankind.

The origins and development of eek!-o-freakery (Part 4)

Paul Ehrlich - Hitler had the right idea, but the wrong people

The daddy of academic eek!-o-freakery is probably known to only a handful of people on this side of the pond; a few more will know the name of John Holdren, The One's influential advisor for Science and Technology, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Co-Chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Well, Ehrlich and Holdren are symbionts. They wrote a Bioscience article together in 1969 arguing that "if the population control measures are not initiated immediately, and effectively, all the technology man can bring to bear will not fend off the misery to come." In 1977 they co-authored Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment, in which they proposed enforced population controls such as compulsory sterlisation for women after they give birth to two children.

The myth of the Oxford debate on evolution in 1860 has it that, upon hearing a labored witticism with which "Soapy Sam" Wilberforce closed his argument, Thomas Huxley muttered: ‘The Lord hath delivered him into my hands.’ Much the same sentiment crossed my mind when I learned in 1996 that Ehrlich and wife had published a book entitled The Betrayal of Science and Reason. Given Ehrlich's previous form, I turned first to the notes and my excitement rose as the self-references went through the previous mark (seventy-eight in Healing the Planet) at a canter, broke the century mark at page 208, to finish with a new world record at 115.

There are a couple of simple rules for notes that hold good despite their disappearance from the discipline-enforcing foot of the page. First, if material was not good enough for inclusion in the text, then it is eminently dispensable; a scholar's first duty, especially in this age of information over-load, is to edit his work severely. Second, the purpose of notes is to identify the source of direct quotations, or works by others to whom the author owes an intellectual debt. To cite yourself, or to cite another who cites you, is masturbation.

Yeah - that's ad hominem. But eek!-o-freakery has prospered because it has cunningly dressed up an appeal to (comfortable) mankind’s baser nature in the clothing of science and reason, when it is in fact a savage assault on both. The fact that Ehrlich is a vain little cockerel crowing atop his own dung-heap is therefore highly relevant to an accurate assessment of his contribution, as is the fact that he has from the start been assisted and funded by interests devoted to pulling up the social ladder.

In a sentence that echoes Al Gore's vision, Ehrlich wrote: "Achieving environmental security should be recognized as a top priority for all societies. These unpopular (and to the average economist, politician, and Sunday TV pundit, utterly unacceptable) notions need to be converted into common wisdom". Would a weekday pundit be acceptable? Ehrlich's undisguised animus towards economists stems from the fact that Julian Simon publicly humiliated him by winning a bet that all the major premises of Population Bomb would prove false - but his economic and social naivety does the requisite number on him without any assistance.

"Making the carbon tax revenue-neutral by coupling it with lower social security taxes or personal and corporate income taxes would encourage individuals to work harder [to keep warm?] and earn more, while corporations would have an incentive to hire additional employees rather than buy energy-using machinery". Take that, you numb-nuts economists! HE hath cut through your sad externalities Gordian knot. Now go forth and convert it into common wisdom.

However patently ridiculous Ehrlich's comments are on the surface, his sub-text is too sinister to dismiss with a laugh. Note the following subliminal suggestion: "on a planet with one billion inhabitants, each person would be more than ten times as wealthy as if there were 10 billion inhabitants". Leaving aside his economically moronic zero-sum basic premise, the last time a concept like that gained widespread acceptance it went by the name of Lebensraum and a mere 55 million people died as a result.

Then there is tree worship: "Many [forestry scientists] are even unaware of the benefits of old-growth stands as reservoirs of genetic diversity that may be essential to the long-term health of the local timbering industry". All over the world, forestry scientists must have smacked themselves on the forehead at not having realized this before. Fancy not noticing that old trees, far from suffocating young saplings, are instead wise elders eager to lend them an experienced helping hand!

Or is the exclusiveness of ancient trees the heart of their appeal to an old man who demands that human population should be reduced substantially and speedily? With stunning obliviousness from one of his ethnic background, Ehrlich approvingly quoted some silly Brit who suggests that producers of alleged environmental hazard should be considered guilty until proved innocent, because: "waiting for final proof . . . would be the height of imprudence".

So you decide who is a Jew, right Paul? To hell with civil liberties: HE hath come to be a judge and a divider among us, a big improvement on the last wimpy emissary, who claimed to be merely the Son of God.

18 August 2010

Seumas Milne - arsehole of the week

Possibly the most ignorant article yet on CiF: "The transformation of Latin America is a global advance" by a Guardian journopuke called Seumas Milne.

Dear God - where to begin?  Well, the beginning is really the end:
Nearly two centuries after it won nominal independence and Washington declared it a backyard, Latin America is standing up. The tide of progressive change that has swept the continent for the past decade has brought to power a string of social democratic and radical socialist governments that have attacked social and racial privilege, rejected neoliberal orthodoxy and challenged imperial domination of the region.
Are these Guardinistas so shameless that they do not even care that anyone who knows anything about Latin America is laughing at them?

Yeah, I guess that's exactly what they are. It's all just a Brit lefty circle-jerk.

The making of a one-party state

The following are excerpts from the Daily Telegraph editorial of 5 August 2003. That's SEVEN years ago.
Under Labour, the public sector has become a Moloch, to whom the lifeblood not only of the present generation but that of posterity must be sacrificed. The public sector has employed an additional 354,000 people since 1997, and is due to grow by more than 200,000 over the next three years. It now employs 5.3 million, one in five of the working population, a proportion that is bound to grow as the productive sectors of the economy shed labour in the face of prohibitive regulations and costs. While the Guardian’s ‘Society’ section is now the size of a telephone directory thanks to the number of public sector jobs advertised, manufacturing industry has lost 11 per cent of its workforce. Whitehall has more than half a million civil servants, about as many as the City of London. The greatest engine of growth in Europe is carrying the burden of the largest bureaucracy in Europe.
It is not only a question of size. The new ruling class has privileges that most people working in the productive sector can only dream of. Generous state-funded pensions, guaranteed against fluctuations in the stock market; jobs guaranteed against fluctuations in the labour market; and subsidised housing reserved for public sector workers. Half, at most, of the new staff are nurses, teachers, police officers and other front-line professionals; the rest are administrators. Public sector inflation, though hard to measure, is running far ahead of the private sector at 19.6 percent over the past two years. Almost all the new money pouring into health and education is being spent on salaries: £2.45 billion out of £2.7 billion of this year’s increase on schools, for instance. Public sector pay is now rising faster than ever before, but efficiency is some 16 per cent below that of America. We are spending a third more on the NHS, with hardly any improvements.
Meanwhile, economic growth has slowed to a mere 0.5 per cent so far this year. According to the Treasury’s own survey, economists expect government borrowing to exceed its estimates next year by about £10 billion, causing the Chancellor to tell the last Cabinet meeting that, in the words of one minister, ‘we are sailing close to a waterfall’. Taxes to pay for the burgeoning public sector have cost the average household £4,000 a year, to which must be added the cost of lost growth: some £2,000 a year. April’s National Insurance rise has caused average incomes to fall by 1.2 per cent for the first time in recent memory. Yet taxes are due to rise by another £95 billion over the next three years. There is political method in this economic madness. Half a million new bureaucrats will form part of the payroll vote: they owe their jobs to Labour. John Prescott announced yesterday that 200,000 new houses would be built east of London, many of them reserved for public servants. Over time, such colonisation will cost the Tories seats. This is gerrymandering on a national scale. 

Brit charities

Startling information in Ed West's post in today's Telegraph:
An astonishing 25,000 British charities receive more than three-quarters of their income from the government, and many more receive a substantial chunk. Twelve of the largest charities receive £742m a year from the taxpayer, and spend on average £400,000 each just “managing” their relationship with Government.
Why, oh why, oh why do Brits find it so hard to accept that the NuLabour "project" was to use government revenues to create a one party state? And that, despite being led by a one-eyed, chippy Scotsman with the charisma of a Marabou stork, despite getting involved in two unwinnable wars, despite a sustained assault on historic civil liberties, despite encouraging unlimited immigration and despite signing up to European super state constitution without holding the referendum they promised, they nearly got away with it?

The "project" was the old Progressive ambition, first articulated by Woodrow Wilson (US president 1913-21), to become "the party of government", by which he meant more than just the party that temporarily held power. He meant the party that would penetrate the machinery of government at all levels to such an extent that it would no longer matter whether another party took office.

It is screamingly apparent that a thriving voluntary sector is an obstacle to any such ambition. So, Nu Labour co-opted it by bribery, turning the charities into government dependents. Like junkies, they no longer know how to function without their statist fix and are desperate to retain it.

Two changes to the law on charities would lance that boil:
  • no organization in receipt of public money may claim the fiscal status of a charity
  • no organization whose purpose is to influence public policy may claim the fiscal status of a charity 
A healthy voluntary sector MUST be completely divorced from government. Anyone capable of thinking things through should be able to see that - which category does not, unfortunately, include Ed West or any other of today's Telegraph contributors that I can think of.

Which is sad, because the Telegraph once saw things very clearly, as I document in my next post.  

17 August 2010

That mosque

Not sure whether I should eat crow about my first reaction to news of the project to build a mosque within two blocks of the Twin Towers site. On one hand there is this article by William Dalrymple in the NYT:
Feisal Abdul Rauf of the Cordoba Initiative is one of America’s leading thinkers of Sufism, the mystical form of Islam, which in terms of goals and outlook couldn’t be farther from the violent Wahhabism of the jihadists. His videos and sermons preach love, the remembrance of God (or “zikr”) and reconciliation. His slightly New Agey rhetoric makes him sound, for better or worse, like a Muslim Deepak Chopra. But in the eyes of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, he is an infidel-loving, grave-worshiping apostate; they no doubt regard him as a legitimate target for assassination.

For such moderate, pluralistic Sufi imams are the front line against the most violent forms of Islam. In the most radical parts of the Muslim world, Sufi leaders risk their lives for their tolerant beliefs, every bit as bravely as American troops on the ground in Baghdad and Kabul do. Sufism is the most pluralistic incarnation of Islam - accessible to the learned and the ignorant, the faithful and nonbelievers - and is thus a uniquely valuable bridge between East and West.
On the other hand, the "Cordoba Initiative" would seem to refer to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, previously the Great Mosque of Córdoba, which in turn was built on an earlier Christian church.

Nah - sorry. For a group with that name, with that historical association, to seek to build a mosque in that location, and to persist in it despite arousing bitter controversy, can only be deliberately provocative.

I would also be more inclined to accept Dalrymple's expertise if he had not written "the violent Wahhabism of the jihadists". The 9/11 killers may have been Wahhabis, but the jihadist phenomenon is WAY more widespread. The Saudis are Wahhabis, so presumably Dalrymple is making subtle reference to the Saudi-funded mosques springing up all over the place.

He also write: "The fact that someone is a Boston Roman Catholic doesn’t mean he’s in league with Irish Republican Army bomb makers". Maybe not - but that's the way to bet.

Whatever - Muslims all over the world are persecuting Christians and destroying Christian churches. Permitting them to build mega-mosques in Christian countries without openly, explicitly and irrevocably denouncing the sectarian terrorism of their co-religionists is just wrong.

Hat-tip to Jay