Friday, September 30, 2005

Tube death probe delay explained

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner's concerns in this letter are interesting. It was written two hours after the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes. At that point, based on what the Metropolitan Police were saying in public, he should still have been expecting praise for his officers, not legal trouble. The Commissioner has claimed that, at that point, he was not aware that the public statements about "bulky clothing" and "suspicious behaviour" were untrue. So why the concern?

The really interesting question is what happened during the period Sir Ian succeeded in preventing the IPCC from obtaining access to the scene. Might it have anything to do with the mysterious absence of CCTV footage from certain cameras?

BBC NEWS | UK | Tube death probe delay explained: " "

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Hero's return for Labour heckler

Labour said Mr Wolfgang could return for the conference's final day provided he did not cause further disturbances.

How dare they accuse a man of causing a "disturbance", when he was acting in the finest traditions of British democracy?

This story says it all about New Labour. They are control freaks and habitual abusers of power. The Prevention of Terrorism Act was used against this old man - a refugee from Nazism no less - for simply exercising his right to free speech. That cannot be blamed on "over-zealous stewards".

For that matter, if the Labour leadership thought the stewards were acting incorrectly, why did they not intervene? They were watching it happen. Whatever damage limitation their PR people advise today, it seems reasonable to infer that their silence at the key moment indicated approval of the stewards' actions.

BBC NEWS | Politics | Hero's return for Labour heckler:

Heckler, 82, wins apology from Labour

"Mr Wolfgang tried to re-enter the hall, but was refused permission under Section 44 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

Now we know what the Prevention of Terrorism Act is for - it is to protect the delicate ears of Labour ministers from dissenting opinions expressed by 82 year olds.

"Guardian Unlimited Politics | Special Reports | Heckler, 82, wins apology from Labour

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Judges face human rights shake-up

The significant passage from Blair's speech reported here is set out below:-

"And on law and order, Mr Blair again emphasised his 'respect' agenda, saying plans will be published by the end of the year to 'radically extend summary powers to police and local authorities to take on the wrongdoers'. The detail of this was not immediately available."

"Summary powers" for those not tuned in to the jargon of our burgeoning police state, mean the ability of police and local authorities to punish "offenders" without recourse to the courts. In other words, law-enforcers will be judge and jury in certain cases.

Not only does Blair subscribe to the Sun King's view that "L'Etat, c'est moi", but he also shares Judge Dredd's creed - "I am the law". Before you complain that the Judge Dredd reference is an overstatement, please remember the case of Jean Charles de Menezes. He was summarily executed on the merest suspicion of being a terrorist.

More significant was the passage the Grauniad did NOT report here, namely the PM's observations about fighting 21st Century crime with 19th Century methods and about the "system" being designed primarily to ensure the innocent were not convicted. In other words, he is preparing us for a further attack on such "outdated" concepts as the presumption of innocence. It is hard to imagine what more he can do without making serfs of us all.

Press and public seem unable to grasp that, without independent verification of guilt by courts beyond political control, anyone who annoys the authorities will be liable to arbitrary punishment. Of course that's not what they say, but it is what such proposals mean. A press which cannot look behind political rhetoric is useless. Where is the challenge, from Right or Left?

To add to the gloom, Charles Clarke signalled there will be no retreat on ID Cards. So the ID card-linked database which will make the personal information of all citizens available to Judge Dredd will go ahead, despite all public misgivings.

Our free society is collapsing before our eyes. Where is the Opposition?

Guardian Unlimited Politics | Special Reports |
Blair says reform must go further

Britain to pull troops from Iraq as Blair says 'don't force me out'

This is a sad story. I supported the invasion of Iraq. Given what our government was telling us at the time, it seemed necessary. It also held out the prospect of establishing the first Muslim Arab democracy, the very existence of which would be a threat to the corrupt regimes of the region.

We were lied to and let down. Lied to because the casus belli ; the existence of weapons of mass destruction which made Saddam Hussein a threat outside his borders, was false. Despite the Government's vigorous efforts to suppress the truth; attempts which have neutered the BBC, driven Dr David Kelly to suicide and destroyed the reputation of Lord Hutton, no-one now doubts we were lied to. They told us that if we knew what they knew, we would understand that the war was necessary. It is now apparent not only that there was no secret data, but that much of what they were telling us was - to be polite - unreliable.

Blair seems to have seen even the prospect of a bloody war as an opportunity to enhance his image. He does not seem ever to think of anything else. Such an approach, these days, passes for "political genius".

We were let down because neither our government nor that of the United States had a post-victory plan to establish order in Iraq, let alone democracy. It is amazing that they were naive enought to expect flowers in their gun barrels and a happy-clappy tentful of joyous Iraqis ready to build a system few of them had experienced.

Too few troops were sent and the "de-Baathification campaign" closed down the existing security forces, most of whom would have taken orders from new political masters. Instead, they were sent home with their guns, their training as a dictator's hired thugs, and no pay. What were they meant to do but fight for the return of the regime which had paid their wages and made them a privileged elite?

We expected the rapid imposition of a new constitution followed by an orderly handover to a new government. Any changes to the constitution could have been left until after our troops were withdrawn. What we got was a "big tent" and a bunch of mutually-mistrustful people driven into it to "come up with something". It was pathetic.

I have hoped against hope that progress could be made, so that all the sacrifice made by the allied troops would not be in vain and so that we were not reduced to handing decent Iraqis (again) to murderous bullies. However the withdrawal is "spun", it seems that is what will now happen.

This is a worse outcome than Vietnam. Every evil regime in the world will feel safe, because no democracy will be able to muster support for action against it. Islamic extremism will not die with the withdrawal from Iraq. It will grow. One day we will have to confront it. The fiasco in Iraq means it will be stronger by the time we are able to do so.

The Observer | Politics | Britain to pull troops from Iraq as Blair says 'don't force me out'

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Shot man's family to visit station

I am sure we all feel for the de Menezes family as they visit London, both to visit the place where their son was shot and to hear from the Independent Police Complaints Authority as to the evidence it has gathered so far.

It is interesting that that IPCC says it cannot release all the evidence. It gives two reasons. One is that it does not want to prejudice future legal action. It is hard to see how it can disclose anything at all which will not do that. One of the main arguments against an enquiry like this is that it inevitably prejudices any proceedings.

Secondly, it says there is information which cannot be released on the grounds of "national security". That is very curious. The shooting took place in a public place. The essential facts are known. The investigation is really about the intent of the officers concerned and their justification for what they did, not about their actions.

Unless the IPCC proposes to conceal the identity of the killers, the intelligence on which they acted or the orders they were given, it is hard to see what else can be hidden. If it withhold that information, the conversationwith Jean de Menezes' family may be a little short.

the Mail online | Mail - news, sport, showbiz, health and more | Shot man's family to visit station

An Englishman's Castle: Picking on th Missus

The Englishman makes a very good point. Leaving aside the hilarious inarticulacy of "master communicator" Blair (available in full for your enjoyment if you click through the links), the fact is that his own wife has been guilty of the new thought crime he is introducing.

Recent revelations from inside Downing Street suggest that Nu Labour makes policy up as it goes along. Given the quality of the policy, that's no surprise.

An Englishman's Castle: Picking on th Missus

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Observer | UK News | BBC refuses to hand over Islamist tape

In law enforcement, as in everything else, there need to be clear priorities. This story suggests that Britain's police don't have their priorities straight.

No arrests have been made of anyone involved in the July 7 bombings in London. The immediate perpetrators, of course, carried out summary justice on themselves. However, there must have been accomplices. Where are they?

When there is every reason to suppose that others may be planning similar attacks, how can the police have time to focus on "thought crimes"? They should be looking for people who may be building more bombs and training more bombers, not messing about with publicity-seekers.

The Observer | UK News | BBC refuses to hand over Islamist tape

Friday, September 23, 2005

Family mourns conker accident youth

Of course we all feel sorry for this boy and his family. But there are more health risks involved in telling children not to play, climb trees, or whatever than there are in play-related accidents.

Our children are unhealthy partly because we are afraid to let them play outside like we used to. The motorised school run, computer games and excessive parental controls driven by media scare stories are damaging childrens' health.

I am sorry for young Louis Read, but at least he died having fun. At least he was being a child. He was just unlucky. Better to die that way than of poor health later because he never climbed a tree.

the Mail online | Mail - news, sport, showbiz, health and more | Family mourns conker accident youth

Thursday, September 22, 2005

'Judge Dredd' powers for police urged

I just love the way "Judge Dredd" Blair comments that it would be "unfortunate" if Britain became a police state. It's a classic of British understatement.

Telegraph | News | 'Judge Dredd' powers for police urged

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Call to end sex education opt-out

See what I mean? Minutes after I agree with the so-and-sos for the first time in my life, they show their true colours and make me regret my words.

"Parents cannot be relied upon to teach their children about sex" says the Liberal Democrat health spokesman. The State can, apparently.

It does not matter whether parents can be relied upon to do what a Lib Dem wants. It does matter that parents are free to bring their children up their own way. Look at successive advice from health officials on such issues as whether to put your baby to sleep on its front, back or side. What was obligatory one year, became dangerous the next.

Some parents may not do the right thing. Most do. All have the right to try. Governments can be GUARANTEED to do the wrong thing. Any party with pretensions to the name "liberal" should understand that.

BBC NEWS | Politics | Call to end sex education opt-out

Lib Dems vow to fight terror powers

I can't abide the Lib Dems. They are an opportunistic bunch of wets, prepared to say anything at any time that will get them ahead. It pains me enormously to find myself agreeing with them. As far as civil liberties in Britain are concerned, they are currently - alas - the only show in town.

Blair and the Brownies are vying with each other to paraphrase Soviet justifications for treating individual liberty as a selfish, bourgeois concern. The Tories are so scared of Labour that they cannot even stand up on an issue which historically is theirs. The bulk of the population is too complacent to care. All the average voter wants to do is pay this month's mortgage and pretend the credit crunch is never coming.

So it's left to the Lib Dems to speak sooth, almost by default. They are not a naturally libertarian party, despite their name. They have a history of seeking to interfere in the minutiae of our lives. But on this occasion, they are right. More power, provisionally, to their wet lettuce elbows.

the Mail online | Mail - news, sport, showbiz, health and more | Lib Dems vow to fight terror powers

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Mandelson attacked over party on yacht

Given the way New Labour ruthlessly capitalised on so-called "Tory sleaze", perhaps I am squeamish in wishing the Conservatives would stop banging on about such stories? Mandy's socialising is perhaps more serious than the ridiculous damp squib of "David Blunkett and the A Level results", but it's still pathetically trivial. The current government is perhaps the worst in modern history. it is ludicrous that HM Opposition flails about like this while failing to land a solid political punch.

Public life in Britain is remarkably puritanical. No-one outside the UK ever believes me when I tell them that we charge the Prime Minister rent for his Downing Street flat. Most heads of government are much more lavishly accommodated, and all at public expense. The idea of Schroeder or Putin paying their own way is beyond the comprehension of Germans or Russians. I don't even dare mention such concepts to French friends. Chirac has been housed in spectacular style at their expense since before most French people were born.

Britain can be a very mean-spirited place. I am all for high standards in public life, but given that all but the most moronic MP's are losing out financially by being in Parliament, I think we could usefully leave the subject of their salaries, expenses and perks alone and focus instead on what value they deliver.

It's odd that the effective repeal of Magna Carta and the introduction of draconian police state powers excites only a few "liberati", while an EU Commissioner dining on a billionaire's yacht, a Home Secretary getting his mistress pregnant, or a Prime Minister holidaying at the expense of wealthier friends gets everyone excited.

The revelation over the weekend that the Prime Minister gave political undertakings to Rupert Murdoch should have been enough to bring the government down in a functioning democracy. Yet it went unnoticed in the "scandal" of his describing fellow-Celts as "the fucking Welsh". Our political priorities are askew.

Telegraph | News | Mandelson attacked over party on yacht

Jailers 'sadistic toward Muslims'

The murder of Zahid Mubarek by Robert Stewart is indefensible. If prison officers deliberately exposed Mubarek to harm by placing him in a cell with "...a known racist psychopath..." that is indefensible too. Of course this begs the question, what was a "psychopath" doing in a conventional prison? Are we dealing with a psychiatrist's, a journalist's or a prisoner's definition here?

The Daily Mail writes in shocked terms that "...a Muslim and a Jew were ordered to share a cell even though both objected..." When dealing with racial and religious issues, it's often useful to substitute other groups for those mentioned in a text. For example, if we substitute "black person" and "white person" for "Muslim" and "Jew", how do we respond to the same sentence? Or how about "Welshman" and "Scot", or "Presbyterian" and "Anglican"?

Muslims in Britain cannot expect to live apart from other races. If they commit offences and are jailed, they should get the same multicultural experience as everyone else.

in another, more trivial, example a relative of mine told me a story from a paintball venue in the North-West. The normal deal is that all the groups who arrive are divided into two teams to play against each other. So half of each group of friends or colleagues finds itself in opposition to the other half, playing alongside a number of strangers. Recently, group of Muslims from Manchester refused to play with non-Muslims. They wanted to play on their own.

The management, fearing the reaction, immediately changed their normal practice to accommodate them. This created the need for two arenas and two games. Yet if another group had refused to play with Muslims, (or Blacks, Presbyterians or Welshmen), there is no way the management would have co-operated. The Muslims in question were racists. As a libertarian I believe both that they were entitled to their view and that the paintball centre management was entitled to refuse their demand.

It is only in such everyday ways that we can rebuild our society to accommodate and assimilate the various groups within it. We are all citizens together and both public and private sectors should operate, in that wonderful old phrase, "without fear or favour". We should neither improperly discriminate against a group, nor accept its demands to discriminate against others. In our rush to abolish favours, we have perhaps become too fearful.

the Mail online | Mail - news, sport, showbiz, health and more | Jailers 'sadistic toward Muslims'

Friday, September 16, 2005

Telegraph | News | Clarke bungle reveals his doubts over terror law

When President of the National Union of Students, Charles Clarke was already a "young fogey". Affecting a Karl Marx beard and representing a "Broad Left" grouping which included Communists of various shades, he nonetheless looked and sounded like the old-fashioned public school boy and Cambridge man that he was and is. Not very surprising then that he's not up to speed on the modern world, and inept enough to send out Word documents complete with tracked changes.

Every law firm secretary knows to PDF documents unless tracked changes are being used on purpose to follow the course of a negotiation. Apparently the Home Office is staffed, as well as headed, by IT-illiterates. Come back Sir Humphrey, with your neat handwritten marginal notes.

I can understand why Clarke is nervous about his measures. Anyone with any experience of student politics knows that young intellectuals play with ideas; the more extreme - in many cases - the better. The new rules on "glorifying" terrorism would have captured almost every Lefty with whom Clarke played in his student years, including - quite possibly - him. Never an NUS conference passed without resolutions in support of this or that set of mangy third world "freedom fighters".

For that matter, the proposed new laws would have caught me in my day. I was briefly a Maoist; supporting the greatest terrorist state in history. I was also an active supporter of Palestinian terrorists, selling "Free Palestine" newspapers at my school gates. Thankfully, I grew up - at least politically.

"Glorifying terrorism" is something that is done on the national day of many now-respectable states. The French Revolutionaries were terrorists. The founders the Republic of Ireland and Israel too. I won't extend the list. You can do that yourselves, to your heart's content.

The State is entitled to regulate our actions, but not our thoughts or the expression of our opinions. Attempts to do so will criminalise, and therefore radicalise, more and more people. Left to work through their youthful intellectual confusions, such people might otherwise grow up to be a Home Secretary or a respectable libertarian blogger.

Telegraph | News | Clarke bungle reveals his doubts over terror law

Telegraph | News | Clarke plans to extend terror detention laws

This, I believe, is where we came in. So the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 is already not enough for the government. They need more powers and they need them now. When they have them, I am sure they will not be enough. They will never be enough until we are either all in continuous detention or have turned into terrorists.

Government by tabloid headline may have worked well for New Labour on more prosaic issues (if you don't mind thousands of pointless new crimes and a massive waste of taxpayers' money). On civil liberties issues however, it is simply not acceptable.

Telegraph | News | Clarke plans to extend terror detention laws

Thursday, September 15, 2005

BBC NEWS | World | Europe | Survey reveals global dissatisfaction

This is really interesting. Forget the results for the rest of the world. Let's just look at those for Britain. 70% of us think our elections are "free and fair" but 66% of us think our government does not rule according to the will of the people. The BBC commentator seems to think that's a contradiction, but it's not. I am sure that both opinions are correct.

I assume the 30% of voters who DON'T think our elections are free and fair take the view that the failure of the government to respect the people's will implies there's something wrong with the electoral system. They may think that an alternative to our "first past the post, winner takes all" system would somehow identify better specimens of that class of people who are attracted to politics. Or they may more reasonably think that some kind of proportional representation would inhibit radicals from making dramatic changes by creating a need for ever-shifting coalitions. Certainly this last possibility is attractive in current circumstances, with civil liberties disappearing in double time under an unprincipled government with no respect for individual rights.

I like our electoral system, precisely because it provides a clear result. I have always compared it to a steering a tank. You don't have a steering wheel, but two levers, marked "left" and "right". By pushing one or the other every four or five years you can ensure that, over your lifetime, successive governments take more or less a reasonable direction. During the Thatcher, Major and Blair governments however (i.e. all my adult life) it has not worked. As a student politician, leading my university's Conservatives, I remember telling the leader of the Labour students that his party was betraying the nation by failing to provide an electable alternative to the then invincible Tories. Now I feel the Tories are betraying the nation by doing exactly the same. For most of our democracy's history, HM Opposition functioned as, in some ways, the most important part of the system - challenging what the government did and exposing incompetence or corruption. Prime Minister's Question Time was the very symbol of our feisty and aggressive democracy, and the Leader of the Opposition was never out of the public eye. Now the Opposition sulks in its tents with its spin doctors, or wastes what public interest there may be in its actions by bickering its way through endless, pointless leadership contests between equally useless contenders.

Disraeli famously remarked to a dissident, "...damn your principles, stick to your party...". For generations we could smile at that, precisely because our Parliamentarians were a famously bolshy, independent-minded bunch. Sir Gerald Nabarro or Alan Clark might suck up to the leader (or an anticipated replacement leader) for immediate political benefit, but in their hearts they marched to their own drums. Now we have craven, grey, professional parliamentarians who follow Disraeli's injunction to the letter. One reason they are so craven is because they are rarely financially independent. I would like to retire at 55 and dedicate 10 or more years of my life to politics - to put something back and give some public service. No party will currently take candidates over 40 however. Why? Because they would not as easily submit to the party whips. As mature, financially-independent politicians, they might actually follow their consciences. That's not acceptable to party leaders, to whom their parliamentary parties are mere armies to be marshalled.

In a Parliamentary democracy with no written constitution to protect individual rights, we rely entirely on Parliament. Our consitution can be summed up in three words; "Parliament is sovereign". If Parliament wanted a final solution to the Muslim problem, for example, there is nothing in our system to stop it ordering the construction of gas chambers. If a future Parliament with a Muslim majority wanted a final solution to the kaffir problem, it could do it.

The "separation of powers" between Executive (PM and Cabinet), Judiciary (the courts) and Legislature (Parliament), requires Parliament to make the law, the government to implement it and the courts to interpret it. Our system currently uses Parliament only as a pool of "talent" to staff a Cabinet which then, through the "whips", exercises ruthless discipline over the rejects. The Executive makes the law. Our judiciary implements it (to my personal knowledge, often with a heavy heart) because it has no significant role of constitutional oversight.

Without an independent Parliament, we are always going to have the present unhappy circumstances. The Whips are the problem. The Parties are the problem. The people are the problem for sticking to their historic parties rather than running as independents or at least voting for them. Unless we can find a way to get better-quality people into Parliament and put the Executive back in its cage, any repetition of the BBC's interesting poll will produce the same result. More worryingly, if the Parties continue to see themselves as competing brands positioning themselves from day to day according to focus groups and opinion polls, rather than consistent political principles, our people may lose all confidence in democracy itself. Let's face it, that's already happening. Many of us don't vote, precisely because the "free and fair" result does NOT produce a government which will govern according to our will. In such circumstances, when economic circumstances don't keep us happy and relaxed, more and more of us will turn to political extremism.

BBC NEWS | World | Europe | Survey reveals global dissatisfaction

BBC NEWS | Northern Ireland | McCartney intimidation 'growing'

This was obviously going to happen as soon as the story died down in the press. I sadly predict this family will eventually be killed. I also predict that Martin McGuinness will "not believe" republicans are involved in the killing and that the government will wring its hands and do nothing. After all there is a good chance that the killing will be done by murderers the government has released from prison under the terms of its surrender to the decades-long, US-funded campaign of terrorism by Sinn Fein/IRA.

If the leaders of the Orange Order are to be believed, the recent riots were started by unprovoked police violence. Who would believe that in Britain? Well, who would have believed that an innocent man in London could be shot by police without warning? Who would have believed an innocent civil servant could be driven to suicide (if that's what happened) by government hounding over his telling the truth to the press about the lies told to the people to justify war in Iraq?

Things are going badly wrong in many ways in our country.

Is it possible that the terms of the surrender involve the British Government turning its forces against the loyalist population? Perhaps it is trying to accelerate acceptance by Protestants of Northern Ireland's absorption into the Irish Repbulice?

Unless something changes in British politics I also sadly predict that the government will do all it can, despite Blair's brave words to the UN today, to appease the forces of radical Islam in Britain. We are in for a long war on terrorism because our leaders are not really on our side.

Meanwhile, the government seems most interested in using terrorism as an excuse to increase its powers.

BBC NEWS | Northern Ireland | McCartney intimidation 'growing'

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

BBC NEWS | Northern Ireland | Protestant fears and loyalist anger

The BBC asks another stupid question. Why are loyalists angry? Because they have been betrayed, that's why. Because IRA terrorism, backed by armchair terrorists in the USA and impliedly supported by European "allies" who refused to deport murderers because they were "politicals", has won.

If we have a terrorist problem in the UK, it is at least partly because Blair's surrender to the IRA has delivered a clear practical message to counteract his windy rhetoric about the "war on terrorism".

BBC NEWS | Northern Ireland | Protestant fears and loyalist anger

Monday, September 12, 2005

Jews and Freemasons controlled war on Iraq, says No 10 adviser

Thousands sign a petition against ID Cards? The Home Office finds a way to count all their signatures as one. The largest march on London since the Peasants' Revolt? The Government abolishes fox hunting anyway. Why were their views not influential? Well, if one follows the logic of the delightfully-named leader of Britain's Muslim barristers, Ahmad Thomson, perhaps it was because they were not Jews & Freemasons.

I have never understood why qualifications in psychiatry involve so much study. Loonies seem invariably to give themselves away by their belief in the disproportionate influence of Jews and guys in funny aprons. One would have thought a simple questionnaire around those issues would replace all other diagnostic techniques.

The important question remains. If there are as many moderate Muslims as the Prime Minister says, how come all the ones he knows are extremists?

Telegraph | News | Jews and Freemasons controlled war on Iraq, says No 10 adviser

Friday, September 09, 2005

Islamic stance on women can be oppressive, says Cherie

Well duh. It's interesting that the Telegraph thinks these remarks by the Prime Minister's wife have "caused embarrassment". To whom, for God's sake? Not women, that's for sure.

I suggest we ask every country in the world if it's embarrassed by Mrs Blair's remarks and withdraw our ambassadors from every country that replies "yes". Then we could impose visa requirements and an immigration quota of zero on all its citizens and expel any of them who might be living in Britain at present.

People who think Britain should soft-pedal on human rights in order to "improve relations" with the Islamic world are spiritual descendants of those who would have thought it was tactless to talk about Jews in the presence of Nazis. To hell with them. Carry on, Cherie.

"Telegraph | News | Islamic stance on women can be oppressive, says Cherie

BBC NEWS | UK | English countryside 'almost gone'

It is sad that town and country in Britain are divided as never before. I usually sympathise with country people under pressure from urbanites who don't understand the rural way of life and who tend to be rather "Beatrix Potter" in their view of the animal kingdom.

However, if we analyse what the Council for the Protection of Rural England is asking for here, it is state intervention to prevent people selling their houses or land to city people, in an attempt to keep the country as it is right now. The interference with property rights proposed is just staggering and there is nothing in history to suggest that such state controls ever result in a more desirable outcome than the interplay of market forces.

People are leaving the land. That's because agriculture is becoming more efficient. That trend could well be reversed by an increasing demand for organic produce. One more food scare, and the Brits will want everything hand-reared. Farmers who are taking subsidies to "set aside" land (and presumably firing the workers who would have farmed it) might consider earning a living by going for high-end organic production instead.

If the government wants to intervene helpfully, it could more usefully improve urban infrastructure so that our cities are more liveable. I have been a long-distance commuter from the country to the City and it's not an easy choice. I would have preferred decent accommodation in London, but at that stage could not afford it.

This kind of ill-thought-through propaganda, with its "doomsday scenario" to grab a headline is very counter-productive. There is a serious debate to be had here, but demanding massive state intervention to "save" the countryside is naieve in the extreme.

BBC NEWS | UK | English countryside 'almost gone'

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Key findings of oil-for-food report

Of course Annan should resign. It may seem terribly old-fashioned to say so but any CEO in business, or highly-placed official in politics takes the credit for their subordinates' successes. The quid pro quo is that they also take the blame for their failures. The UN Secretary General does not need to have participated in his son's alleged misconduct or to have been aware of his subordinates' failings to be accountable for the UN's dismal performance.

The most significant comment in this summary of the findings however, is buried at the bottom of the list - just as it is only hinted at diplomatically in the text of the report itself. France and Russia, two of the "P-5" permanent members of the Security Council, were "...reluctant to address illegal oil flows to Syria...".

As a guest in Moscow, I choose not to comment on Russia's role.

What of France though? Why would that respectable member of the family of nations be reluctant to impede illegal flows of oil; flows serving the corrupt purposes of Saddam Hussein's regime, rather than genuine "oil for food" exchanges? Can we draw any inference from its conduct in this respect as to the reasons behind the subsequent conduct of French foreign policy in the run-up to the US Alliance's invasion?

Our European "friends" and "allies" took a cynical line about the invasion. The suggestion was that it was "...all about oil...", i.e. about the US gaining control of supplies from Iraq. It seems possible that it was indeed "...all about oil..." i.e. La Belle France's reluctance to lose her secret control of those supplies. Given that the US could have had Iraqi oil far cheaper by supporting France, China and Russia in ending sanctions, this is at least a more credible theory that that of the world-weary Continental sophisticates.

Telegraph | News | Key findings of oil-for-food report

Telegraph | News | Yahoo 'helps China track down and jail dissident

That a Western company, in breach of local law, should aid a totalitarian state in hunting down a dissident is disgraceful. It remains to be seen what Yahoo! stood to gain from turning secret policeman and there is the possibility that a rogue employee, perhaps a Chinese agent, supplied the information. If it proves that Yahoo! cooperated deliberately, internet users who care about freedom should seriously consider boycotting the company's products and services.

So much for Tony Blair's cheery pronouncements yesterday on China's alleged progress towards democracy.

Telegraph | News | Yahoo 'helps China track down and jail dissident'

Wednesday, September 07, 2005 - New Orleans mayor orders holdouts removed - Sep 7, 2005

I am not a Louisiana lawyer. I guess there may be emergency powers there which make it legal for the Mayor to give this order, but I can't imagine why. These people are certainly not acting rationally. I would have been out of there before you could say "gumbo", but freedom includes the right to be daft. I doubt whether camping out in your damaged and isolated New Orleans home is, for example, any more dangerous than climbing Everest. We assume that the mountaineering nut jobs who risk death for glory are adults capable of making their own choices. Why are these determined homeowners any different? - New Orleans mayor orders holdouts removed - Sep 7, 2005

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Telegraph | News | BBC says Humphrys was 'misguided and inappropriate'

Don't you just hate the word "inappropriate"? It is a prissy, priggish word. It has become the modern equivalent of the religious word "sinful" but without the notion that, as none of us are without sin, we must not rush to judgement of other sinners.

Whenever one speaks the truth these days, it's "inappropriate." Whenever one challenges authority, it's "inappropriate". Note that the BBC is at pains NOT to say that John Humphreys' remarks were "untrue." No, unspecified elements of his speech were just "inappropriate". Note also that they accept his remarks were not biased and that he did not seek to be "contemptuous" or "dismissive" of ministers in general (God forbid).

Despite the fact that he was speaking in a private capacity; that he has made similar remarks - unchallenged - before in the august presence of ministers and not least that he was speaking nought but unvarnished truth, he has effectively been slapped down in public by his employers.

At what point in our history did our employers acquire the right to control our opinions, or the expression thereof, outside working hours? At what point did it become any of their damn business what we say or do when not in actual production?

What is truly "inappropriate" is for any commercial employer to seek to modify the thinking of its staff or restrict the expression of their thoughts. The payment of a salary entitles an employer to the performance of contractual tasks to the best of one's ability during working hours. Nothing more. Companies these days also expect "loyalty", a rather feudal notion - but minus the "noblesse oblige" bit. I would argue that they are entitled to as much as they give in that respect; usually precisely nothing.

The BBC should shut up and let Mr Humphreys say what he has to say on his own time. At least, when off air, he occasionally says something interesting.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Home thoughts from abroad

This is a fruitful time for fascists. We are fortunate that our would-be Hitlers lack his charisma.

It seems that the July 7 bombers had a leader. This "soldier" of Islam left a bowel-wrenching video message, duly broadcast on Al-Jazeera. In a homely "Last of the Summer Wine" voice - the sort of voice British advertisers favour to sell financial services - he justified his planned terrorist attack on innocent civilians by citing the "wrongs" visited on his people. His people, I need hardly say, were emphatically not us, however Yorkshire his accent and however fully we had accepted him as British.

Meanwhile, in New Orleans, the black citizens of the drowned historic centre make the Lord of the Flies seem like a picnic at Glyndebourne. As they murder, rape and pillage, their leaders offer all the ratiocination of a spoiled toddler demanding an ice cream. A leader with one-tenth of Hitler's charisma would make much of that. To keep myself positive as I read of these horrors, I am constantly keeping the image of the intelligent, accomplished and industrious Condoleezza Rice at the front of my mind. I hope the looters’ and rapists' fellow-Americans are making similar efforts.

In Britain, we have fought the good fight on racism. In 1976, for long-forgotten reasons, I and other students took to the streets of Birmingham with anti-racist leaflets. All our provocations could only produce one racist response from many hundreds of bored shoppers. Most white Brummies, their city full of black immigrants, were cheerfully indifferent. This, however, was before the Commission for Racial Equality built an anti-racist industry with quotas to fill.

A year or two later, I gave one of my fellow students a lift to his home in Handsworth, Birmingham. He tried to persuade me to drop him off miles away but I insisted on driving him to his door. While he explained to neighbours in the street that my car should be left alone, his mother and brother received me into their home for coffee; their first-ever white guest. They did so, to the embarrassment of my fellow student, with naked hostility. I left as soon as one-way politeness permitted. I thought of it again years later when I heard a black activist explain that racism was a white problem and that black people could not, by definition, be racist. I thought of it again when I heard another activist explain that, consciously or unconsciously, all white people were racist.

If Britain were racist, would Chinese and Indian pupils achieve the best results in our schools and universities? Would our Chinese and Indian businesspeople prosper so well? Those communities that do less well academically and economically need another explanation. The rest of us are tired of being an all-purpose excuse for their failures. Whatever the real reason, I don’t believe they fail because their ethnic group lacks the potential. I suspect that if the CRE-sponsored search for excuses were to stop, so would the failures. The exceptions in our society, like my long-lost law school colleague, or like Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell in America, prove that there is a way forward for those prepared to stop feeling sorry for themselves.

As for our alienated and under-achieving Muslims, remember that the Muslim world once led us all in knowledge. There is a reason for the “Al” in “Algebra”. However almost all the energy once devoted to the sciences is now channelled into rote learning of the Koran. Such study develops the memory but inevitably (as it is believed to be the unchallengeable word of God) not the critical faculties. Our Muslims don’t need us to oppress or disadvantage them. They do it themselves, not least by discarding the talents of half their population.

Anti-racism means striving to ensure that no one is unfairly disadvantaged by his or her ethnic origins. It does not mean legitimising uncultured behaviours under the aegis of "multiculturalism". It does not mean holding back from attacking evil – such as the oppression of women or the suppression of the critical faculties of the young – because it originates from a particular ethnic group.

The CRE-led forces in Britain have created racism where there was none. Since their careers depend on racism, what else did we expect?

Please understand me aright. I dislike racism as much as I did that long-ago day in the Bull Ring. I certainly don’t want the fascist right to gain ground. Those people are as much the enemies of liberty as Blair and his thought police. I am merely pointing out that the vice of political correctness has closed so tightly that many ordinary people would currently be tempted to shock the Establishment – and frighten into silence those who trade false accusations of racism for privilege – by supporting fascists. The present crop of fascist leaders are personally repellant. That's lucky, but how long will our luck hold?

As long as the voice of the legitimate right is silent in the land; as long as everything uttered by politicians is “politically-correct” (i.e. a transparent lie that may not be challenged); we risk the loss of the silent majority to the forces of political evil.