Monday, January 30, 2006

Religious hate bill changes urged

A man arrives in Heaven and is given the orientation tour by Saint Peter. Muslims mix happily with Jews, Buddhists with Christians. The newcomer is most impressed. One thing puzzles him. A great wall runs the whole length of the place. "What's that for?" he asks. "Ah" says Saint Peter, "behind there are the Catholics. They like to think they are here on their own".

This is a classic Dave Allen joke. Does it insult or abuse Catholics? I doubt many of them would think so. As the popularity of Father Ted showed, most Catholics have a sense of humour. But if you changed the religions around and put the Muslims behind the wall? Would they take offence? Very probably. They certainly objected to a Danish cartoon showing Mohammed waving back suicide bombers from Heaven with the words "Stop, stop! We have run out of virgins".

My Dave Allen joke is a mild example. Modern humour tends to be more aggressive. I am thinking of an Emo Phillips gag with the punchline "Die, heretic, die!" for example. The point of that joke was to mock sectarian divisions and it is quite politically-correct, but other versions could certainly be seen as insulting or abusive.

The fact that such a discussion is even necessary ought to scare the Hell (no offence to Satanists intended) out of all of us. If the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 was the end of habeas corpus in Britain, then the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill may prove to be the end of free speech. The bill is the result of a manifesto pledge designed to appease Muslim opinion.

Many British Muslims have historically voted Labour, but were thought likely not to do so because of Tony Blair's role in the Iraq War. So Labour promised them this little piece of Sharia Law to win back their support. You may say that's an unfair characterisation, because the law "protects" all religions, not just Islam. The fact is that other religions didn't want or need such "protection" and will be very unlikely to use it. British Muslims will have no hesitation in doing so. Every person who uses it will, in effect, reveal that he does not subscribe to the British way of life.

This bill, if passed, will make wicked, divisive law. It will alienate non-Muslims and increase racial tensions. It is the duty of every decent parliamentarian to vote against it tomorrow.

BBC NEWS | Politics | Religious hate bill changes urged

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Tolerance vs. Victimhood.

Recent political events in Britain have made me think about the notion of "tolerance." Most Brits, asked to define "Britishness" would mention this quality. Having lived in other countries, I am not so sure we are entitled to lay claim to it. Most attempts to create a more tolerant society in Britain seem to lead to new forms of intolerance. I am beginning to think that puritanism is the real defining quality of Britishness.

Take sexuality. When I was a student politician, gay rights were a major issue. But they were an issue on which then twenty-somethings (now forty-somethings) were, and are, completely united. Gay people could no more choose to be straight than straights could choose to be gay. They were entitled to equal respect for their orientation. Society would be healthier if they were allowed to be open about their sexuality. All fine and tolerant. Two decades on, however, "homophobia" is an allegation made far more frequently than it was then. The bar has been raised. To be tolerant, one must now accept that primary school children should be taught about homosexuality. My wife recently met a young teacher who was emigrating to New Zealand because she didn't feel she should have to do that - and was being accused of "homophobia". To be tolerant one must denounce or even try to repress the ancient religions which - understandably - are not able to adapt what they believe to be the word of God, Allah or Whomever to current thinking. We have moved from tolerance to puritanical repression. We have just changed the target. Perhaps it is time to suggest that homosexuals will only truly become equal members of our society when they cease to see themselves as victims.

Take race. The recent unfortunate remarks of Sir Ian Blair have caused a debate. I visited, as I often do, the BBC's "Have your Say" pages on its news website to get a feel for the range of opinion. The comments posted by the public appeared to divide (as far as one can tell from the scant information about people posting comments) on racial lines. White Britain believes that it is discriminated against; that any black person who is attacked is the victim of racist violence, whereas any white victim is merely an unfortunate statistic. Person after person commented that, when an assailant was being hunted, the public could only tell if he was from an ethnic minority if his colour was not mentioned. Black and Asian posters, however, are convinced of entirely the opposite. Whatever else this means, it proves the races are not moving closer together. They are in separate social "silos" holding opinions which cannot be reconciled. Significantly, people of all races now seem to crave the all-important status of victim. Is that surprising? Government spending is systematically skewed, is it not, towards "the most vulnerable members of society?" That is clearly the team to be on.

Take education. My generation was and is, Right and Left, universally hostile to discrimination against the socially-disadvantaged. Those not lucky enough to afford private education should have the opportunity to attend the best universities. We still believe that, but - again - the envelope is being pushed. Truth to tell, there were more State school pupils at Oxbridge in the bad old days of grammar schools, because they gave access to a good education for talented members of the working class. Thatcher's cabinet had more State-educated members than Blair's for the same reason. Nothing has inhibited social mobility in Britain more than Comprehensive Schools. Nothing. Yet they have become, with the NHS, the second sacred cow of British politics. Before speaking about education every politician, from Right or Left, must begin with a ritual denunciation of "academic selection." As educational standards plummet, so politicians seek to force the universities to lower entry standards selectively so that my privately-educated daughters are openly required to achieve higher standards than pupils who went to the sink Comprehensive my wife and I attended. We have moved from being against discrimination to being in favour of discrimination - against someone else. We have moved, again, to reward "victims" so that victimhood becomes a desired status.

This cannot surely be right? If vulnerability is the new aristocracy, how likely is that to promote social and economic progress?

Saturday, January 28, 2006

ITN Journalist arrested

Leaving aside for the moment the question of how "Black Information" differs from information, thanks to the "Black Information Network" for this story about Jean Charles de Menezes.

It seems three people are on police bail awaiting news of charges to be brought against them in connection with the case. Not those police officers, you understand, who held the defenceless and innocent Jean Charles down on a London Underground train and fired seven bullets into his head. Nor the two Blairs and a Clarke who ordered the illegal "shoot to kill" policy which was the ultimate cause of his death. Nor those whose negligence in commanding the police death squad was arguably the proximate cause. No-one actually involved in the killing has yet been charged. £100 says no-one ever will be.

No, those facing "justice" are a secretary, a journalist and a television producer. They are the people alleged to have brought to our screens a picture of Jean Charles lying on the train floor in his own blood. The picture was genuine and gave the lie to most of what we had been told about Jean-Charles' death. More than anything so far, it told the truth about the killing of an innocent man for which there was not even the merest scrap of an excuse. So, in effect, the three are on police bail for exposing official untruths.

What are we supposed to infer from this as to the priorities of our police and the Crown Prosecution Service?

Black information Link:

'Sting' on middle-class drug use

Having moved in the course of my life from working-class ("educated" at a bog standard comprehensive; the first member of my family with a university degree) to, I suppose, middle class (member of a learned profession, send my offspring to a major public school) I am not much impressed with politics based on class. I saw no reason to despise me when I was a member of the working class. I see no reason to despise me now. I didn't think I should be discriminated against as a prole; I don't see why my children should be discriminated against now (as they undoubtedly are, on university admissions criteria - for example).

On average I thought the members of the working-classes I grew up with were more sensible and less likely to get carried away with daft ideas than the middle-class people I know now. But I can't work up an ideology from that generalisation. Both sets of people seem equally vulnerable to State pressure to modify their thinking - which is rather scary. Yeomen of England types who are resistant to such pressure seem to be in short supply.

Sir Ian Blair's class-based approach to policing therefore doesn't impress me any more than his race-based approach propounded earlier this week. I don't think either is heartfelt. I think he's just an appalling, unprincipled careerist, truffling for favours from his political masters; those well-known providers of drug money to the "most vulnerable" members of society.

There is, however, one member of the white, Oxbridge-educated, upper middle classes that I would like to see targetted by the Metropolitan Police. He is a man who issued illegal orders to his employees to "shoot to kill" in circumstances where those employees would have no defence to a charge of murder. He is a man who, when his employees killed an innocent man in execution of his orders, set about denigrating that innocent man in an attempt to justify his illegal actions. He is a man who, caught out in these actions, has not even had the decency to resign, let alone to turn himself in.

Unfortunately, any hope that this man may face justice is utterly vain. For, as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, he is the man who would have to give the order.

BBC NEWS | UK | 'Sting' on middle-class drug use

Met chief: Why the fuss over Soham murders?

Is there any chance that Sir Ian Blair might actually get around to some policing? We have enough politicians, surely?

Telegraph | News | Met chief: Why the fuss over Soham murders?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Hamas sweeps to election victory

The Palestinian people have spoken. No more can we fool ourselves that the brutal murderers of "Hamas" are untypical extremists. They speak for the Palestinians and the world must adapt its view on the Palestinian question to that fact. There is a widespread view in the Arab world that Iran is further along the path to a nuclear bomb than even the West fears. I suspect that has emboldened the Palestinians to spit on the peace process.

Israel, leaderless, faces dark choices and the world is a more dangerous place than before.

BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Hamas sweeps to election victory

Google move 'black day' for China

What Google do in China is a matter for the Chinese. What worries me is what would they do if the British or US Governments asked them "for anti-terrorism reasons" (or whatever) to manipulate search results.

I guess I already know the answer. Lenin said that a capitalist would sell you the rope with which to hang him. It seems that in this respect, if no other, he was right.

For a company with the motto "do no evil", this is not a good day. Anyone know how to fix Safari so that the search window takes me somewhere other than Google - somewhere not involved in keeping the truth from a quarter of mankind?

BBC NEWS | Technology | Google move 'black day' for China

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Celtic canary in the UK's coal mine

The Telegraph's opinion piece on Scotland this morning might make beleaguered English taxpayers smile, but it shouldn't. Scotland's population is declining. Its Socialist paradise needs immigrants. The Telegraph explains that its demographic time bomb is at the point where Bond film directors make the countdown timer a key part of the action and asks:

"Where are the immigrants going to come from? The birth rate is falling everywhere but the pre-modern world, ie, Africa and large swaths of Islam. Assuming that a talented Indian wished to leave his own land, which has the fastest-growing middle class in the world, why would he eschew America or Australia in order to go to Aberdeen and spend his working life supporting the elderly unsackable hordes of superfluous primary-school teachers?"

If the leader writer assumes the Scots care, he is wrong. The English will support those people for them. Failing that, they expect the Germans and Austrians to do so, via the EU. The one nation they don't plan to support them is Scotland.

Telegraph | Opinion | The Celtic canary in the UK's coal mine

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Death to the Scottish Raj

As long as the Act of Union remains in force, we have no basis to complain about being ruled by Scots, as illustrated here (hat tip to Drinking from Home).

Scotland is now a voter farm for Socialism. Some estimate that half its population are clients of the Welfare State; whether living on benefits, dishing them out or administering other State organs of the British Peoples' Republic. Is it any wonder that the Scots are more political? Most of them are more likely to catch a glimpse of the Loch Ness monster than they are of private sector production. For most countrymen of Adam Smith the wealth of their nation is now more likely to come from the British Treasury than the invisible hand of the market.

The English naively focus on wealth generation only to watch the fruits of their labours baked into ever more unsavoury Socialist pies by Scottish chefs. More than half of mankind lived under Socialism in the 20th Century. Everywhere it was tried it failed. Where men are not led by the invisible hand, they must eventually be coerced by State power. The growth of such power in Britain is no accident, but the necessary consequence of the Socialism imposed and led by the Celtic fringe.

It is time to accept that the Act of Union has failed. Let England quit the United Kingdom (and with it the EU of which the UK is a member). Let the English people drive their oppressors north of Hadrian's Wall. Let the Scottish people teach us Socialism by making it work within their own boundaries - and good luck to them.

Drinking From Home: The Scottish Raj

Oaten resigns over rent boy claim

It seems that God has a sense of humour after all. The po-faced puritans of the Liberal Democrats knifed cheerful Charlie in the back over his drinking, only to have the Party's Homo Home Affairs spokesman resign from the leadership race over a sex scandal. Brilliant!

BBC NEWS | Politics | Oaten resigns over rent boy claim

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Fate of 'stressed' whale lies in the balance

Watching the British satellite coverage of this whale story from Russia has been almost as weird as watching the aftermath of Princess Diana's death. Whatever happened to the stiff upper lip and rational detachment for which the English were once known around the world?

It was obvious this whale was sick and disoriented. Non-English experts were saying yesterday that it should be left in peace to die. The British popular media, however, were crying out for the whale to be "saved". So to appease the ignorant, the poor creature was tormented in its final hours.

This contemptible semi-educated sentimentality is what passes for compassion in "caring" post-Thatcher Britain; it's about as genuine as a politician's conscience.

Telegraph | News | Fate of 'stressed' whale lies in the balance

Friday, January 20, 2006

Something smells very fishy about the 'Leo kidnap plot'

As I said earlier. This is a very good piece by Tom Utley, making a serious point in a light-hearted way. Manipulation of (or conspiracy with) the news media is not the hallmark of good democratic government.

Telegraph | Opinion | Something smells very fishy about the 'Leo kidnap plot'

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Kelly announces tighter controls on sex offenders

Our government is entirely without principles or backbone. The witch hunt over paedophiles has uncovered what, exactly? One middle-aged man who fell in love a with a 15 year 25 years ago, married her when she was of age and stayed with her for 19 years, raising three children. This hapless, perhaps misguided, soul was the origin of the foul tabloid hue and cry.

Now the Minister announced that there are precisely 10 further people on the sex offenders register cleared to teach. None of them are currently working in schools. So no story then. Just emotional claptrap. Yet did the Minister stand by what seemed to be perfectly rational procedures? No, she caved in to tabloid pressure.

Meanwhile, having had their pictures and names published, some sad specimens of humanity who constitute precisely no threat to anyone are in need of police protection from a baying mob of ignorant and emotional chavs.

One of the names published was that of a former colleague of my wife. We know his sad story. He is no threat to children and was an excellent teacher. Falsely accused, he had no backing from an employer and a trade union anxious not to be thought to defend a supposed pervert. He accepted a caution, rather than be dragged through the courts to the distress of his family. That was supposed to be the end of it. Not now. His life may be in danger. Where is the justice in that?

Last June the papers carried the story of an exuberant and perhaps drunken young man accused of patting a girl's behind in a nightclub. She objected and the police were called. Anxious to bring an embarrassing (and frankly entirely unnecessary) incident to an end, he accepted a caution - only to find that meant being placed on the sex offenders' register.

One thing is clear. No innocent person should ever submit to a caution for anything. Faced with a police officer who tells you that will be the end of it, tell him to "prosecute and be damned."

Telegraph | News | Kelly announces tighter controls on sex offenders

Menezes shooting probe completed | the Daily Mail

One wonders how the IPCC can have properly investigated this case without interviewing the Metropoliitan Police Commissioner, the Home Secretary or the Prime Minister. It seems that the "shoot to kill" policy (which could only have been legalised by Parliament enacting, in effect, a new defence to murder) was endorsed by all three.

Government does not make the laws; Parliament does. True, it has pretty much done what it was told in recent years, but this time it was not even asked for its rubber stamp.

If the policemen who killed Jean Charles de Menezes are to be charged, then they should not stand in the dock alone. They killed him on standing orders from above. Orders from a gang boss are no excuse for the actions of a hit man, but the gang boss is responsible too.

Menezes shooting probe completed | the Daily Mail

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Pair face death penalty over student's murder

Personally, as long as all defendants have a right to representation and a fair trial, I have no problem with the death penalty in suitably serious cases. So much for libertarians being soft on crime.

However, this Thai case smells badly.

The outcome is far too convenient for the Thai government and tourist industry, it seems to turn on a confession, albeit then supported by (untested by the defence) DNA evidence. The trial lasted less than a day.

The defendants pleaded guilty (which almost never happens in murder trials) and the only logical reason for them to do so was the prospect of clemency. Now they are to be executed. As Tony Soprano would say, what the ****?

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Pair face death penalty over student's murder

Police aware of 'Leo kidnap plot'

I don't believe a word of this story. It breaks in the still-New Labour Murdoch media; presents opportunities for "our glorious leader" to be shown repeatedly on news bulletins with his much-exploited children, and conveniently trashes the name of a protest group which has repeatedly embarrassed the Government.

It is all just too convenient. What on earth was the anti-terrorist squad doing investigating men who dress up in silly costumes to protest being denied access to their children? What next? The Women's Institute? The Church of England?

Why is our press so damned gullible?

BBC NEWS | UK | Police aware of 'Leo kidnap plot'

Monday, January 16, 2006

Thieves no longer have to appear in court

If sentencing is put into the hands of police and prosecutors, plea bargaining will begin on arrest. "Do you want to put your hands up for [lesser crime], in which case I can offer you [sentence A], or shall we prosecute you for [greater crime] and risk [sentence B]?" will become a more common question in Britain than "What would you like to drink?"

If the policeman arresting you can influence your sentence, the temptation for him to take bribes will become even greater too. This is an undemocratic, illiberal and potentially corrupt proposal.

Telegraph | News | Thieves no longer have to appear in court

Comprehensively wrong

In explaining so clearly that academic selection helps social mobility, the Telegraph misses the point. I believe Labour loves comprehensive schools - which by any rational measure are a failure - precisely because they inhibit social mobility.

As a class-based socialist party, Labour needs intelligent working-class people to be prevented from advancing. It needs such people to be embittered, frustrated and open to left-wing ideology. It wants them to fail, because Labour is the losers' party.

Telegraph | Opinion | Comprehensively wrong

Sunday, January 15, 2006

UKIP seeks out Conservative voters with domestic agenda

This is interesting. I am the certainly the kind of person UKIP is setting out to target. As well as being libertarian, I don't believe that Britain belongs in the European Union (although as a cosmopolitan expatriate whose friends are mainly continentals, I wish all the other member nations the best of luck with it).

I confess I was briefly a UKIP member, after resigning from the Conservative Party in the wake of its shameful betrayal of Margaret Thatcher. Although I think it's unfair that the left-wing media lump it together with the BNP, I let my membership lapse because its internal publications suggested I was in, to put it mildly, some rather eccentric company. Like all single issue fanatics, UKIP members seemed to blame everything on their chosen focus of hate; in their case, the EU.

I am fairly sure UKIP will benefit from Cameron's apparent lurch to the left. It will be obvious to any reader that he is making me very uncomfortable and I am sure many liberal-minded, "small State", Conservatives feel the same. However, while we must argue our corner, I think we must also give him the benefit of the doubt. Tony Blair was so successful in convincing people that he was "Thatcher's true heir" that there are left-wingers in Labour who still hate him for it. This, despite the fact that his actions in government have been as Socialist as they could reasonably have hoped for. He has built the British State to unprecedented levels and criminalised class enemies to what should have been their heart's content.

There is a chance that, in a similar way, Cameron is "waving the Red Flag to oppose the Red Flag". I will reserve judgement until the New Tories come up with real policies. And while I will follow the Campbell-Bannerman policy review with interest, UKIP can whistle for my vote.

UKIP seeks out Conservative voters with domestic agenda

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Who is this man?

Please help us to find this man!


It is very disappointing that David Cameron will not speak the truth about the National Health Service, Britain's centrally-planned Socialist medical system. There is no reason to suppose that Socialism works for health care any more than it does for any other productive endeavour. As someone who has experienced the tail end of socialised health care in Poland and Russia, I am certain it does not.

Two stories in my own recent experience, affecting a family member and a colleague, illustrate the point. The family member was called in for a knee operation this Christmas, having had problems for some time from a work-related injury. When opened up, the NHS surgeon decided it was more serious than he thought and did not proceed. As the patient came round, he was told by a nurse that the surgeon would come to explain. He then saw the surgeon walk by. The nurse stopped him and reminded him of the patient waiting. The surgeon, coat and backpack on, said impatiently "tomorrow". The patient was kept in pointlessly overnight (further ruining his Christmas) to be told that he needed an artificial knee joint; that these lasted only 10 years and that the NHS rationing policy was not to fit them to younger people as they would only need replacing. He could come back when he was 60. Asked about 15 years of pain and disability, he was told "we will give you painkillers." Naturally, my family member has decided to "go private" and we are looking into the possibility of flying him to Poland to get it done more cheaply.

The second story is in course of happening now. A colleague presented to hospital in Britain while on Christmas holiday, having injured a rib. She was in serious pain and concerned that somehow the injury might have affected her lung, having suffered last year from pneumonia. She asked for an x-ray and was curtly told - "That's for us to decide, not you". She was given painkillers and went home. Determined to return to work and encouraged by my comment that she would get better healthcare in Russia, she flew back. Presenting to a clinic today, having run out of painkillers and finding herself still in serious trouble, she was immediately x-rayed and told she has water on her lung and is in danger. The private clinic here is arranging urgent treatment. I have my fingers crossed for her. In one sense she should never have travelled to Russia in such a condition. On the other hand, had she relied on the NHS, I don't like to think what trouble she might have been in.

Socialism sucks. It has caused nothing but chaos, political opression and economic degeneration wherever it has been tried. No Conservative leader should be advocating it, in whatever circumstances, however limited. Far from being the "envy of the world", as Britons are brought up to believe, the NHS is a filthy Socialist shambles which is costing many British lives and impairing many more.

Cameron's defence of "our" NHS and promise to adhere to its founding principles is a farce.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Backpacker murder trial ends

Am I alone in finding this story strange? In Britain no-one pleads guilty to murder. The life sentence is mandatory, so there is no deal to be done. Even a one in a thousand chance of an acquittal is worth a try.

Not only did these defendants plead guilty, they seem to have been remarkably willing to tell the police the full story without hesitation. No evidence was presented in their defence, or even in mitigation. What kind of pressure would it take for someone meekly to submit in this way? The speedy arrest and conviction is suspiciously convenient for a Thai government keen to protect its damaged tourist industry.

In Thailand, maybe a defendant can escape the death sentence by pleading guilty? If so, and if the two convicted fishermen are not sentenced to death next Wednesday, then maybe the story makes sense. Otherwise, one has to wonder at the level of remorse required for these men to act against their survival instincts. Not to mention the impressive friendship required for each of them not, as any British chav would have done, to accuse the other of commiting rape and murder while he looked on in horror.

Telegraph | News | Backpacker murder trial ends

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Telegraph | News | Unruly home owners face eviction

Whatever happened to "an Englishman's home is his castle?"

Once again, the ladies and gentlemen of the press are missing the point. They may think "who cares if a yob is punished?" but they fail to understand what it means that these punishments are summary - i.e. without trial. This means a policeman or social worker can expel you from your house or send you for parenting classes because he or she *says* you are a yob. It will be up to you to prove otherwise, if you dare to make something of it.

There is always a danger that police and social workers will concentrate their fire on respectable people. Why? Because such people have something to lose and are therefore prepared to cooperate. The members of the underclass are too much like hard work and, often, too dangerous.

With the burden of proof turned against the accused, many innocent people will have to take the parenting classes or suffer the punishment rather than incur the expense of going to court - just as many now reluctantly submit to driver re-education to save points on their licence. Our society loses because the more respectable we are, the more we must fear offending a policeman or social worker. The less respectable we are, the more we can spit in their eye. That situation, whatever headlines Blair is winning today, is unlikely to lead to more "respect" in British society.

Two fellow-solicitors of my acquaintance suffered the stress and indignity of fighting for months to win back custody of their children because they were falsely accused of child abuse. The social workers were all over them precisely because they were white, middle class, highly-paid members of a respectable profession. They were clean, polite and pleasant to deal with. Everyone wanted that job. Compare and contrast with the case of Victoria Climbie. No-one in Social Services wanted to handle that case, for fear of being accused of harassing "vulnerable members of society".

All the new powers being given to the authorities have already led to a situation where I would be afraid to tell a policeman that he was out of order. If I annoy him, he has summary powers he can use against me which can make my life difficult and cost me money to deal with. 25 years ago, I asked for the badge number of a belligerent Yorkshire traffic cop with a bad attitude and a serious case of car envy. I threatened to call his Chief Constable. He backed down. I wouldn't dare do it now.

A society in which the people are afraid of their "public servants" is a police state. It is a smaller step than we all want to believe from where Tony Blair has brought us in the last decade, to the streets of Moscow in the days of Beria and his "flower game".

My advice to you is don't upset any policemen or social workers. If you live near one, move away. And don't be surprised when giving public servants these powers leads to corruption.

Telegraph | News | Unruly home owners face eviction

Monday, January 09, 2006

Tories to rule out new grammars

If Cameron's Conservatives win, how exactly will Britain be different?

As a victim of comprehensive education, I am inclined to see attitudes to selection in education as a key "sanity test" for politicians. In no other country in which I have lived can anyone comprehend Britain's Marxist approach to the issue. No policy is more damaging, both to individuals and to the nation's competitive position. The sheer waste of talent is incredible. No nation can hope to compete as a high wage economy if most of its intelligent young people have no access to decent education.

If education is to be tailored to academic ability, ability must be tested. If you disagree with this proposition, you are an ideologue not an educator.

BBC NEWS | Education | Tories to rule out new grammars

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Telegraph | News | No identity card? You could be fined £2,500

One might ask, given the supposed benefits to citizens of the new ID Card/National Database system, why large fines are needed to enforce them. If the system will be as wonderful as Ministers say, perhaps the Government should pay compensation of £2,500 to those not lucky enough to enjoy the benefits?

Telegraph | News | No identity card? You could be fined £2,500

Saturday, January 07, 2006


The Russian holidays are coming to an end and I have been luxuriating in my leisure. Browsing the web for things that interest me, I came across this little satirical piece on the Association of British Drivers website. Enjoy.


Thursday, January 05, 2006

Melanie Phillips's Diary

Melanie Phillips is not my kind of person. She is not libertarian, or even liberal, by nature. Like most British journalists, she cannot usually distinguish between having and mandating an opinion.

On this occasion however, she makes a telling point. We all know people like the Burtons. It's ironic they should be criticised on this occasion by the representatives of a Government which is riddled with them.

For a time, I was like them. At Kate Burton's age, I would have refused to cooperate with the authorities too. Come to that, there are many ways in which I would refuse to cooperate now. After all, giving information to intelligence services with a black record of twisting it for political ends is not an obvious thing for an intelligent Briton to do.

At Kate's age, I sympathised with the Palestinians. I was suspended from school for selling "Free Palestine" (the Al Fatah newspaper) on school grounds. I remember the worst thing about being a supporter of the Palestinians was the company one kept. Fascists, anti-semites, primitive Middle Eastern rulers, communists - those of every foul persuasion were to be found lined up behind them. It made me feel increasingly uneasy. But I was too young to understand the importance of such feelings.

I retained some sympathy for the Palestinian cause until 9/11 when they made perfectly clear on the streets that they have lost because they are lost. Injustice is not a licence to be foul. It is a test of humanity. The Palestinians failed.

While we can debate the rights and wrongs of the foundation of Israel, it is a better nation than the Palestinians or their black band of supporters would ever have built. Israel exists, it is democratic, it is friendly and its people are instinctively on the right side of every international debate. Two wrongs do not make a right, but neither do three.

Melanie Phillips's Diary

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Political Correctness kills

My blog is subtitled "the death of liberty", but it could just as easily read "the death of truth". Here is a good example.

Stephen Pollard %u2022 PC kills

Sex for visas: the Brazilian girls only had to smile and lean forward

No-one with experience of the former Communist countries of Eastern Europe (or memories of pre-Thatcher Britain) will be surprised by these stories. If valuable privileges can be given or witheld by officials, corruption is inevitable.

In 1970's London, developers could wait months for telephone connections to their new office buildings, or they could pay off the Post Office engineers. The choice was to lose hundreds of thousands in rent, or tens of thousands in bribes.

When we lived in Poland, the police threatened to strike for higher pay. The government chose instead to give them discretion over the amount of fines, depending on the value of the car. Stopped for speeding in your Mercedes you were inevitably offered the choice of being fined as a FIAT, if you would just dispense with the receipt.

In today's Moscow every time-saving illegal turn in a city jammed with traffic has a price. Wind the window down, hold the banknote out for the policeman and he will deftly snatch it; you don't even need to stop. I am told you can buy "season tickets", priced according to the laws you want to break.

I predict there will be more and more such stories in Britain as Blair's New Labour and now, sadly, Cameron's New New Labour, take us further down the path of an over-mighty State. Every time we assume the moral superiority of the State; every time we propose new regulation so that its guardians can prevent this or that abuse, we need to ask Juvenal's ancient question, "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?"

Telegraph | News | Sex for visas: the Brazilian girls only had to smile and lean forward

World dispatch | A failure of purpose

This little article expresses gently, in Guardian-speak, what I have thought for years about aid to Africa. Bob Geldof and Bono get off on their sense of saintliness, but they - and the 40,000 western agencies now condescending to Africans with funds garnered from the well-meaning and guilt-ridden - are doing active damage. All the money spent has not improved the situation at all - except for the thieving dictators.

Guardian Unlimited | World dispatch | A failure of purpose

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


John Brockman, the New York-based literary agent and publisher of The Edge website posed the question: what is your dangerous idea? The essays submitted in response by academics and thinkers make fascinating reading. My favourite is from Daniel Gilbert, a psychologist at Harvard University, who said that it is a dangerous idea that ideas can be dangerous;

"Dangerous does not mean exciting or bold. It means likely to cause great harm. The most dangerous idea is the only dangerous idea: The idea that ideas can be dangerous. We live in a world in which people are beheaded, imprisoned, demoted, and censured simply because they have opened their mouths, flapped their lips, and vibrated some air. Yes, those vibrations can make us feel sad or stupid or alienated. Tough shit. That's the price of admission to the marketplace of ideas. Hateful, blasphemous, prejudiced, vulgar, rude, or ignorant remarks are the music of a free society, and the relentless patter of idiots is how we know we're in one. When all the words in our public conversation are fair, good, and true, it's time to make a run for the fence."

I wish I had said that.