Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The way we are

Today was a long slog through airports. Five hours in the air, two hours in security queues, plus a couple of hours in cars to and from. Now I am safely back in Russia, away from Communist Britain, where I spent a long weekend.

The “war on terror” from the point of view of the ordinary man consists of being ordered about by government employees with attitudes at least a mile higher than their intellects. Everywhere in Britain, behind the heads of these time-wasters, there are signs warning us not to hit them. It’s the only real evidence that our Government has any idea of what we are thinking.

Finding myself in a terminal-long queue at Manchester Airport. I politely asked a government no-neck with a “security” swing tag what the problem was. He replied in characteristic style (irritated expression, nouns and verbs unaccompanied by social niceties) that “it’s passenger volume”. I thought this a little offensive. I am lavishly built, but my volume was scarce greater than his. Given a three foot start, it would be a very unfit terrorist that he could catch.

How typical though that he perceived the taxpayers he serves as “volumes” of liquids or (presumably noxious) gases, rather than numbers of individuals. We were just a constant flow of irritation to him.

I called Mrs Paine (who is staying in England with the Painettes for half term) and whinged sarcastically about the “communist Northern thugs” who were herding me and my fellow travellers like so many zeks in a gulag. When I hung up (feeling much better for having vented) the gentleman ahead of me in the queue turned, smiling, to say he agreed and we fell into conversation.

He was in manufacturing. I can’t remember meeting a Brit in manufacturing during the last 15 years, so this was interesting in itself. His company has just been taken over in a massive leveraged buyout by a foreign company, having made the mistake of building up cash reserves attractive to such a predator. He is moving to a Nordic country with 59% income tax, having calculated that, net of all the stealth taxes he pays in Britain and bearing in mind the lower cost of housing and superior quality of life, he will be better off. He had many reasons to go, but mainly he is sick and tired of being part of the oppressed minority of productive workers ripped off to pay for parasites; both those “working” for the government and those living off benefits.

He summed it up nicely. He said that the British Welfare State has thrown the laws of evolution into reverse. What we have now, he said is “the survival of the unfittest”. We have accustomed generations of our people to lives of idleness - so many of them that we have to import 300,000 legal immigrants (and God knows how many illegals) to do the work they are too lazy to consider.

He recounted an experience of trying to staff a new factory in Birmingham. He and his colleagues arranged to do a presentation at the local Job Centre, only to be told by the lady in charge that “You won’t find anyone here. These guys are third generation. They have no intention of taking a job.” Unsurprisingly, his company has no expansion plans in Britain - they are building factories in Russia instead.

This reminded me of a conversation in a local shop yesterday where the owner told me he watched vans drop off builders, their working clothes soiled, at the Job Centre opposite. The vans waited for them to “sign on” as unemployed before driving them off - presumably back to the site for some overtime. As a taxpayer, he watches himself be defrauded. “Why can’t the Job Centre people see it, if I can?” he asked naievely. “They can,” I replied “but it’s not their money - it’s yours.”

Maybe this is a feeble link to my blog’s main theme, but “liberty” is in such trouble in Britain at least partly because “rights” have become more important. What I want from Government is - mainly - liberty. I want it to stay out of my way so I can get on with my life. Unfortunately, many of my compatriots want the Government to stand in my way like a highwayman, so that they can have “rights” to income at my expense.

Monday, May 29, 2006

BBC NEWS | UK | Convictions too few - Goldsmith

What exactly does it mean when a Government law officer says conviction rates are "too low?" This BBC article unquestioningly accepts that it must mean tough measures are needed to increase the rates. Maybe that is right. Maybe not.

It could also mean that the Crown Prosecution Service is bringing weak cases that juries throw out - perhaps under pressure from their political masters to secure more convictions. It could also mean that our police are becoming less efficient. Perhaps the appalling state of our education system, where any old sloppy performance is praised dishonestly to the skies, is beginning to have an effect? It would be suprising if it were not.

This government has a history of setting targets which - usually - merely result in its employees rearranging matters so they are fraudulently met. Nothing really changes. For things really to change requires honest assessment of the problem and hard work to fix it. This lying, cheating government of featherweights is capable of neither. I wonder how many innocents will go to jail to meet the targets this time?

BBC NEWS | UK | Convictions too few - Goldsmith

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Telegraph | News | Police urged to investigate Galloway over 'Blair assassination' interview

How ludicrous that anyone should suggest George Galloway should be subject to a police investigation over his remarks about a theoretical assassination of Tony Blair. Galloway is a cretin, but he does a public service by stimulating such debate.

There was a time when dreaming the death of the King was treason, let alone speaking of it. But those days are over and Blair (much as he would love it) is no king.

Galloway was asked a theoretical question and answered it honestly. He stressed he was not urging such an assassination. Many of us suspect this odious little man is guilty of something, besides his evident narcissism, but he is guilty of nothing in relation to these remarks.

Whatever happened to the concept of free speech in Britain? Punish men for evil actions, not words.

Telegraph | News | Police urged to investigate Galloway over 'Blair assassination' interview

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Another assault on our freedoms

Guardian readers are not normally great supporters of freedom. By and large they think "society", through the dubious agency of the Government, knows best how we should conduct our lives. This odious newspaper is, never let it be forgotten, the platform for the despicable Polly Toynbee. But today, even Guardianistas are protesting the treatment of Brian Haw, the Parliament Square peace protestor - and rightly so.

Haw is politically something of a nut job. His stance on Iraq is naieve in the extreme, but I have donated to his campaign in the past because while I despise what he says, I support his right - in a free society - to say it.

Mainstream politicians dislike those of us who condemn Britain's slide towards "a police state". They say we are overstating our case. 50 police officers arresting a lone protester at 0245 looks like a police state to me.

We can, as the slide continues, continue to argue the precise point at which Britain will have crossed the line. But as Amnesty International condemns our government for its assault on civil liberties, as the officers who shot an innocent man on public transport seven times in the head while their colleagues held him down remain uncharged, and as harmless cranks are seized in dawn raids in what even Guardian readers see as "suppression of dissent", I take a more practical view. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then a duck is what it is.

Guardian Unlimited Politics | Special Reports | Another assault on our freedoms

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Get your copies now

Why not buy copies as gifts for any Lefties of your acquaintance? Go on; show them you care. Available from leading bookshops or (link in sidebar).

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Home Office has not just lost control - it's given up trying

Tom Utley makes several good points here. Civil servants will be delighted to be so completely exonerated for their apparent incompetence. I think he misses the main point however. Labour has not merely "overdone it" with its "eye-catching initiatives", or failed to analyse the burdens they place on loyal civil servants. The Labour Party seems to have deliberately hijacked the resources of the Home Office, and other great departments of State, for party political purposes.

The prize in a General Election (this may come as news to John Prescott) is the ability to appoint the men and women responsible for leading the various Ministries and Departments of State. Those Minstries are there to implement our laws, manage our government institutions, defend our borders and so on. Labour's Ministers have given scant attention to these responsibilities. Instead, under the guidance of the Party's spin doctors they have focussed entirely on agitprop. Many initiatives were clearly made up "on the hoof" in response to the previous day's headlines. There was simply no time for the relevant Ministers to take advice, to cost them or to prepare sensible plans. When the following day's headlines satisfied the Party's political requirements, the Ministers moved on.

Perhaps this is why, under Blair, Ministers do not take responsibility for their departments' performance. They resign only when the spin doctors advise that, politically, the game is up. I am sure it never once occured to Charles Clarke (or David Blunkett before him) that it was any part of his job to enforce the laws concerning illegal immigrants. His career prospects depended not on that, but on securing good headlines for his boss.

It is interesting that, if I am right, the government has neglected all its duties for nine years yet still - until very recently - remained popular. The people seem to have preferred political soap opera to real public service. The current scandals may have exposed massive incompetence, but I fear Blair (or, if not, Brown) will be able to spin his way out of the problem. Certainly, the response has been classic New Labour - more new, unfunded, unplanned but eye-catching initiatives. That is still more plausible to the voters than any promise of solid attention to detail. How could voters take such a promise seriously if given by John Reid, for example, given that he is the "Reshuffle King" and will be out of the Home Office before he has had time to understand the extent of its failures?

One has to ask, how valuable are most of the State's services to the people, if the machinery of government can be neglected for almost a decade, without anyone noticing?

Telegraph | Opinion | The Home Office has not just lost control - it's given up trying

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Money, Power & Freedom

I write mainly about liberty. I don't stray much into such issues as government expenditure. That is done brilliantly by the excellent Wat Tyler at his blog "Burning our Money". I recommend him highly.

Recently, a few things made me think about these matters. In the press, I read that "low paid" civil servants have been supplementing their income by selling confidential data "on an industrial scale" to identity thieves, primarily for use in benefit and tax credit fraud. I read that the estimates of tax credit fraud (£490 million last year) are to be "revised upwards".

I learned today (from Wat again ) that you have a greater chance of being a victim of crime in Britain than in any other developed country except Australia. I learned that the cost of crime is about £100 billion in Britain. This figure (derived from official statistics) is certainly an underestimate. Even so, in the unlikely event that crime could be eliminated, the savings would be enough to buy each family health insurance. Coincidentally, the hopelessly inefficient NHS costs about the same percentage of GDP as crime (I am tempted to say "other crime" - see below).

My godson, recently graduated, wrote to me about his hopes for the future. He has an engineering degree and cannot find relevant employment. He is planning to gain experience in another "softer" field with a view to starting a business of his own in due course. He tells me he wants to focus on international services in the hope that he can, as he put it, "escape to somewhere with more freedom". When I was his age, I never imagined I would live to find myself in Russia receiving such a letter from a young Englishman.

A science student we know, about to graduate, has been harassed by "animal rights" demonstrators as he goes to his lab each day for the last year. His daily routine now involves wearing disguises and varying his travel route, rather as if he were in the Mob rather than a victim of a mob. He has just accepted a job in America, to start as soon as he graduates. He does not want to leave his family and friends, but he feels that his skills are not valued in Britain. For that matter, he feels that science itself is not valued in Britain. He is right. Intelligent people in Britain are prisoners of the ignorant, irrational and religiously fanatical whose half-baked opinions are routinely pandered to by Government, media and police. That is not leadership, but followership.

His mother tells another story. Her daughter broke a leg a while ago and was provided with crutches. When she recovered, her mother - a "true believer" in the NHS - dutifully returned the crutches to the hospital. No-one there knew what to do. There were no procedures for accepting them back. She was told that "it just doesn't happen". She was shocked. I wasn't. I remember my late grandfather's garage being full of wheelchairs. When he complained that one was unsuitable or defective, another was brought. No-one would take the old ones away, however. Why bother? They had been bought with "someone else's money". Ironically, he never did get a usable NHS wheelchair and splashed out his own money on the best available model to bring him some comfort in his last months. Wouldn't it have been better for him to do that in the first place, and for the taxpayers to have been spared the expense of his garage full of scrap?

A late friend of my wife's family had what seemed like the contents of an entire pharmacy at home. Many old people do. The drugs are "free" and who wants to keep going back for repeat prescriptions? He died in possession of enough drugs to have served his needs for twenty years (if they had not all been out of date).

What do all these little stories have in common? Waste. Waste of human resources and waste of capital. Compare and contrast the care any supermarket takes with its shopping trolleys, with the attitude of the NHS to its wheelchairs. Compare and contrast any private company's fear of lawsuits if its employees sold client information to organised crime with the Government's fear - of bad publicity.

Whatever the Government touches, turns to waste. The bigger the State, the greater the waste. The more a government believes - as this one does - that it represents mainly the people standing under this torrent of waste, the more inclined it will be to try to buy their votes by being "generous". Yet the supermarkets, for all their grim insistence on profit, are probably better loved institutions in Britain than the caring-sharing NHS.

Barry Goldwater said it well. "Any Government that is big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take it all away." No Government as big as Britain's can ever be run efficiently or honestly. To come back to my subject of liberty, there is a real danger that exposing sleaze, corruption and waste will have to be criminalised in order for government to function. Already, I suspect that editors are rewarded for keeping things quiet. One can only imagine what has been done to the once proudly-independent BBC to turn it into the degraded lap dog that it is today.

Reducing public spending is not a matter of greedy taxpayers wanting more to waste in the pub, as Socialists seem to think. Whatever Polly Toynbee may say (or perhaps even think), tax is not "good value". By all means let's have a safety net for the poor and incapable. But please let's recognise that anything which belongs to the public might as well belong to no-one. Even the greatest extremes of violence in former totalitarian states did not stop people stealing from the Government. In Communist Poland they had a proverb that "If you don't steal from the State, you steal from your family." The more the Government believes that property is theft, the more theft there seems to be - inside and outside the ranks of its army of employees.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The cash-for-fake-ID scandal at the heart of the Government

Do you still think that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about from ID cards and the national ID database?

Independent Online Edition > UK Politics

Saturday, May 13, 2006

I'm ready to rip up Human Rights Act, declares Cameron

For me, this is the first positive sign from David Cameron. If a review of the Human Rights Act doesn't lead to a sensible idea to reform it, he is ready to repeal it. He understands that it merely onshores the judicial function and he is prepared to suspend Britain's adherence to the European Convention on Human Rights pending a negotiated amendment. He has understood the issues. He has presented them clearly. He has not gone in for "cheap shots" against the judge or the parole board. It's not spin, it's principled politics. I can hardly believe I have read something so encouraging in the context of British politics.

Well done, Dave.

Telegraph | News | I'm ready to rip up Human Rights Act, declares Cameron

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Human Rights and Human Wrongs

Today is a bad day to be a lawyer - and especially a judge - in Britain. Nor is it a great day to admit that you serve on a Parole Board.

Honest yeomen of England, egged on by the yellow press and our duplicitous Prime Minister, are trembling on the verge of coronary thrombosis at the news of two decisions, one by a court and one by a parole board. Both decisions seem to have been founded on the Human Rights Act, which enacted the European Convention on Human Rights directly into English Law. The only point of disagreement among popular journalists today is as to the precise degree of blame to attribute to the lawyers and judges concerned.

The scribes and their infuriated readers are all in error; an error the Government will exploit to the maximum in the months and years to come.

In the High Court yesterday, a judge ruled that nine Afghan hijackers were refugees and were entitled to remain in Britain. This is obviously of great concern. Mrs Thatcher protected us well at a time when international terrorism was as great a threat as today, by ensuring that any hijackers who came to Britain would stay and be punished for their crime. No deals. No surrender. If they killed the hostages, so be it, they would be punished all the more. It was hard, but it deterred hijackers from nominating a UK airport as their destination.

That was then. The adoption by the United Kingdom, as a member of the Council of Europe, of the European Convention on Human Rights means it is no longer so easy. The hijackers are humans and have rights too. If the proper interpretation of the Convention leads to such decisions as yesterday, that is not the judge's fault. It is Parliament's. It should not have ratified the Convention without foreseeing such consequences.

You can see the MPs' problem though. Who, as a politician, could be against "Human Rights", after all? Who, as a politician, would want to be the cause of headlines about Britain refusing to ratify such a worthy-sounding document? Still, their obligation to their constituents is to study and understand the laws they enact and the treaties they ratify. They failed.

They failed, alas, because most of them didn't try. Most of them are either mere "payroll vote" or "lobby fodder." They vote as the Whips direct them either from fear of losing favours earned, or in hope of future advancement. They vote as the whips direct them in support of Party spin-doctors' relentless quest for good headlines for their Party leaders.

In other democracies it might not matter so much. Where there is a Constitution that protects basic freedoms, legislators cannot do quite as much damage. The British Constitution essentially consists of three words however; "Parliament is sovereign". We have no protections, God help us, but the intelligence, integrity and courage of our Members of Parliament. The present poodles, hand-picked by their Parties from the outset for their suggestibility, for their "TV appeal", for their membership of fashionable minorities, for their class background - for any damn thing in short but their intelligence, integrity and courage, have betrayed us - almost to a man. They are the visible sign and symbol of our nation's decadence. How I crave a Cromwell to bid them "In the name of God, go!"

The judge concerned is coming in for serious "stick" in the blogosphere today, from usually "sound" bloggers. He is in that unenviable position because the Human Rights Act, by enacting the Convention directly into English Law, made it his job to interpret it. We were just as bound by the Convention before, you understand, but any embarrassing judicial decisions were taken by the European Court of Human Rights. Now it is one of our own judges who must take the heat. Poor guy.

Why then did he so criticise the Home Office? Was he not being political? Were successive Home Secretaries not doing the peoples' will by refusing to admit the hijackers as refugees? Yes, they certainly were. They tried desperately to avoid the consequences of the Convention when they were poltically inconvenient. In doing so, they acted illegally. You can't enforce laws selectively to suit your public image as a tough Home Secretary. The judge courageously took them to task for that, despite the shifty looks he will get in the pub for the rest of his life. He should get a medal. I would not be him today for all the uranium in Russia.

What then of the Parole Board which released Anthony Rice into the community, despite all previous recommendations to the contrary? This is a more tricky one. I am sure his lawyer did throw the Human Rights Act in the Parole Board's faces in the course of doing his professional best for his client. But that does not mean they were forced to take the decision they did. Rice was in jail after a fair trial and his circumstances had been subjected to miniscule review by endless well-meaning professionals. Perhaps surprisingly, given our perceptions of our probation officers and social workers, no-one seems to have recommended his release.

The officials who might have spoken against it seem not even to have been present. It seems more like a SNAFU to me; another example of the systemic incompetence inevitable when the role of the State is stretched too far. As a Labour MP remarked recently on another subject, the Home Secretary's job is so big that failures are inevitable. She spoke more truth than she knew, or at least than she understood. Rather than search fruitlessly for supermen, we should be reducing these jobs to a human scale.

You certainly can't blame a prisoner's lawyer for raising the best arguments he can. It is up to the Crown to oppose them and the tribunal to evaluate them. Mistakes will be made. This was a horribly tragic one. I would not like to be a member of that Parole Board this morning. While I cannot be so callous as to blame them (Rice did the killing, not them), I fear that they will be human enough to blame themselves.

The European Convention and the Human Rights Act are such dangerous weapons partly because they have such nice names. Who can be against "Human Rights?" Tribunals faced with arguments based on them must feel intimidated. Perhaps we should drop the snappy names for legislation and draft legislation? So often it is misleading. Take the "Legislative & Regulatory Reform Bill" which sounds as though butter wouldn't melt on its pages, but is perhaps the greatest threat to our democracy in a generation.

Perhaps we should revert to the old convention of naming Acts as [Name of Monarch], [year of reign], [sequential number]? Not so snappy, perhaps, but less prone to evoke emotion. It's a trivial point on which to end such a piece, but it's a better suggestion than to take up Falstaff's cry of "First, let's kill all the lawyers".

European Convention on Human Rights and its Five Protocols

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Palestinians to get interim aid

Condoleeza Rice is my favourite politician. This, it must be admitted, is not a heavily-contested title. I hope she changes her mind about running for President, if only because it would be hilarious to watch the multi-culti, feminist Left handle a Republican President who is black, female and demonstrably more intelligent than any of them.

A woman of her intelligence and integrity must of course understand that aid routed through the EU will not - as promised by Kofi Annan - be "fully accountable".

The EU's own accounts have been "qualified" by its auditors for as long as anyone can remember. The EU is at best financially incompetent and seems far more likely to be utterly corrupt. Neil Kinnock, a former anti-EU firebrand whose snout was, by the end, shaped to the bottom of the EU trough was the man appointed to sort the problem out. You will recall that he fired the officlal responsible for the accounts, not because she was responsible for the gaping holes in them which cause the auditors such problems, but because she went public about them. Having shot the messenger, thus sending a message to any other officials who might actually want to protect taxpayers' funds, he considered the problem solved.

The idea that the EU is capable of ensuring that this aid finds its way to needy Palestinians rather than into the hands of the Hamas butchers is quite ridiculous. The best we can hope for is that so much of it adheres to the sticky fingers of EU officialdom that there is little left for the purchase of Semtex.

BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Palestinians to get interim aid

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Little Red Book of New Labour Sleaze

Here's a publishing novelty. This book was written over the internet by Britain's political bloggers and edited by Iain Dale and Guido Fawkes.

Order your copy here

Monday, May 08, 2006

Police persecuted me, says De Menezes whistleblower - Britain - Times Online

TEN officers break down the door of a secretary with neither previous convictions nor any indicators that arrest might be resisted. Is this a reasonable approach to law enforcement? Or a deliberate attempt to intimidate a whistleblower whose telling of the truth to the media embarrassed a powerful police officer?

Why is it considered OTT to speak of a police state in Britain? Armed police officers killed an unarmed, innocent man with neither reasonable cause to suspect him, nor any reasonable opportunity given for him to surrender peacefully for questioning. The Metropolitan Police lied about it, trying to trash the reputation of the innocent victim in a number of ways. The killers' identities have been concealed and no-one believes they will ever face justice; still less the politicians and senior officers who are equally culpable because of their illegal orders to kill without warning. A public-spirited woman informs the press of police lies and is frightened and bullied (and has her property trashed) by way of vengeance (or is it the famous "summary punishment" promised by the PM?)

How much more will it take before people accept the truth? Britain is already a police state - and the situation is getting worse.

Police persecuted me, says De Menezes whistleblower - Britain - Times Online

Friday, May 05, 2006

Pause for thought

For Conservatives, yesterday was the equivalent of the first sunshine run in a new convertible So how did the Cameron Spyder perform?

Some commentators suggested that, if Labour lost less than 300 seats, it would be business as usual. They seem to have lost about 200. Some thought the Tories should be aiming for 400. If so, they were disappointed. They were careful to “manage expectations” though, and today claimed that the results were “at the high end” of their target range.

A government in its third term, mired in sleaze and characterised by the hubris usually so hated by the voters should not be doing so well. The promised BNP protest vote didn’t really materialise either. Two-thirds of voters simply didn’t bother.

We can’t say they were wrong (though Left-wing think tanks and sundry politicians are proposing to force them to vote). In a democracy, broadly speaking, the majority determine what’s right and wrong. The majority decided not to vote yesterday.

I don’t think ordinary Brits are stupid or apathetic. My wife served on a jury lately and found her random cross-section of the population inarticulate and badly-educated, but laudably serious, diligent and keen to “get it right”

Voters were acting rationally yesterday. Most “local government expenditure” is allocated from national taxes. Local councillors are irrelevant busybodies. Voting only encourages them. Until money is raised locally to spend locally (rather than stolen from opposition voters to give to Government voters) it is perfectly rational to ignore local elections.

Assuming the minority who turned out were representative, yesterday’s vote told us that most people don’t want Labour. We knew that. They currently rule Britain with the votes of only 20% or so of the population. On that slender mandate (as if these power-mad crooks really gave a damn about legitimacy) they are destroying our liberties and damaging our economic future.

People don't not want Labour, but they don’t want the Conservatives either. God only knows why they should, when Cameron is a mere Blair impersonator. All our elections, local and national, are delivering a clear message; “a plague on both your houses.”

If we were starting a democracy today, Labour, the Conservatives and the LibDems are not the parties we would found. They are hangovers from history. The voters, quite sensibly, are telling us so. So what are we going to do about it?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Clarke deportation plan

Bloody typical. I have said it before, but it's worth saying again. We don't need new laws. If the Government focussed on enforcing those we had 100 years ago (murder, burglary, rape, etc.) and did not trouble with the others until it had achieved satisfactory police performance, we would all be better off.

Here is Charles Clarke, having failed to use his existing powers and perform his existing duties as Home Secretary, promising to take on new powers and duties. How New Labour is that? Enough spin already. Let's have some honest-to-God performance for our money.

BBC NEWS | Politics | In full: Clarke deportation plan

Cameron: Prescott looks a 'fool'

I am glad that the Conservatives are being so tolerant of John Prescott's foibles. A minister's private life is his own affair and he should only be publicly accountable for his performance in office (not any irrelevant performances in his office). In Prescott's case, the more time he spends having sex with underlings, the less damage he will do to us all by his professional incompetence, so Tracey Temple (any relation to Shirley, by the way?) deserves our thanks.

Of course, all that need not prevent us deriving harmless amusement. We are paying their handsome salaries, after all, so we are entitled to all the return on our investment we can get.

I was explaining the affair clumsily in Russian to my language teacher recently. Told that John Prescott is 67 and Tracey Temple (any relation to Shirley, by the way?) is 43, she commented that seemed "about right". Amused by her reaction, it occurred to me to check the age ratio against the traditional Arab formula on the subject (now you see why they had to invent algebra, by the way): -

(X/2)+9 = Y

where X = a man's age and Y = the "correct" age for his next wife or concubine.

Interestingly, 67 divided by 2 is 33.5; 33.5 plus 9 is 42.5, which rounds up to 43.

Ah, the wisdom of the ancients.

BBC NEWS | Politics | Cameron: Prescott looks a 'fool'

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Migrants on the march: US cities hit by citizenship protests

Millions of illegal immigrants march for "the right to be American" and many citizens march alongside them. This seems like a story of hope. Perhaps the European model of mutual distrust veneered with "multiculturalism" is not the only way?

Of course, it's amusing to see some of the slogans about "gringos" being the real immigrants. The Spanish conquistadores made the early white settlers of the American colonies seem more saintly even than the myth of the "founding fathers" would suggest.

Leaving aside their patchy grasp of history, the whole thing is rather charming. America is where Anglo-Saxon language, culture and values seem to have the best chance of survival. It's nice to see that they can be so attractive still. It reminds me of my own warm feelings - as a devout Shakespearian - standing in the Folger Library in Washington DC and knowing that our culture was safe for the foreseeable future, whatever ills befall the islands of its origins.

As long as Americans hold firm to their historic stance that immigrants are welcome to become American, but not just to relocate, they (and we) can take pride in the appeal of our Anglo-Saxon way. It's ironic that it it appeals more to these, mainly Hispanic, immigrants than it does to our own rulers in Britain who sometimes seem determined to destroy it.

It is also ironic that these "illegals" have by definition, thrived in the USA without any recourse to social security. They cannot be subject to the Daily Mail's usual nasty insinuation that they came only for the benefits. Whether they can articulate it or not, they have been drawn to the opportunity presented by the free market, have worked hard and have learned to love the American way. If you despise Abu Hamza for coming to Britain to preach jihad on the "dole", you must logically admire these guys for their courage in facing the raw challenges of the labour market without the safety net of "welfare". If you can't maybe you are just a racist? If you can, then you definitely aren't.

Of course, a nation needs to control its borders. Illegal immigrants clearly have no "right" to be American. Whether they become so is for America to determine and it is entitled to make and enforce clear rules. But given that there are some 12 million of them, it seems the USA has systematically tolerated "illegal" immigration, perhaps to provide cheap labour. If so, many of these people have been allowed in on deliberately disadvantageous terms - effectively on probation.

That puts a different complexion on their desire to be accepted as Americans. Many of them may be de jure but not de facto "illegals".

It's not for someone who has never been more than a "wannabe" American to say what the USA should or should not do. I would only comment that Americans are lucky to have immigrants who want to be American. I hope they work it out peacefully between them. Immigrants made America great. Maybe some of these immigrants can make it even greater?

Telegraph | News | Migrants on the march: US cities hit by citizenship protests

Monday, May 01, 2006

Diderot Lives!

This discussion online at "The Phrase Finder" contains a gem which allegedly appeared on an office bulletin board:

"Hang the last Blairite with the guts of the last social worker!"

I am sure Dave Cameron would not approve, but I still think it's funny.

Re: Terry Pratchett