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Tuesday, August 24, 2004

I'm moving back to London and have a lot of work to get through so I won't be blogging for quite a while.
Nonetheless, if you want to read some more from me go to my writings page and read the essays and columns I've posted there. During this hiatus I will be posting new-ish stuff there. This will mainly be pieces I wrote years ago, but which I think are still interesting and worth a glance. In any case they will all be a little more rounded than my blog postings that I normally don't put that much effort into. I'll put an update in this post whenever I do.
If you want a taste of my blogging I'll give you a few semi-random samples: my first proper posting; my last proper posting; and because the links are mostly still useful, my posts on the one year anniversary of the beginning of Operation Telic/Operation Iraqi Freedom:
- Occupation and reconstruction
- British motives
- the terorism debate
- bringing it all together
And here's me analysing some statistics and here again, except more interesting.
I'm going to end by making a promise that I will resume normal blogging by October 25th, latest.
See you then.

PS: I've just had a thought. I may start blogging again earlier and also you may not be in the mood to keep coming back here to search for updates, so I've decided to offer an ad hoc mailing list: just put "timmyhawk" in the subject line and send a blank letter to tim_blog at a place called "very warm post followed by a dot and a com" (that should keep the spam away I hope). And yes, of course I'll pass your adresses on to websites offering adult interest material and Nigerian ladies seeking assistance with the handling of their late husbands' untold riches ;).

Monday, August 23, 2004

Occasionally us Guardian readers are accused of being soft on security issues, on being doves and all that. Not all like that though, and certainly here’s one you can’t really accuse of being an instinctive pacifist. Hawkish indeed, or what that be Jaguarish?

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Look, I was a child in the 1980s and I'm not a great fan of the period music wise, so that's why:

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Friday, August 20, 2004


You are Water...you are emotional and sensitive.
You are good at feeling and being in your
emotions, but sometimes have difficulty
expressing your feelings in words.

What Element Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

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Thursday, August 19, 2004

Thanks to the national anthem for the link and the link to this post on Islamophobia in pro-war blogland. I'd just recommend reading the whole thing because it's hard to excerpt it. But I think this is something worth having a closer look at:

I've long, as a Jew, found a highly useful test for distinguishing legitimate commentary from hate; I take the noun of the statement in question, switch it to "Jew," or the adjective to "Jewish," and see how I think it stands up.
One can also switch out, say, one religious figure for another who did things, in a different religious tradition, we now would call horrible and despicable. Enjoy the game! "If the bastard wasn't a Jew they would have said so." "I'd just be satisfied with covering those Jews with pork chops and putting them in a pit full of rottweillers."
Feel free to use "Christian, " or "atheist," or "Hindu," or whatever works best for yourself.

The good thing about this method is that we in the West are more used to recognizing and condemning anti-Semitism for sad historical reasons. Anti-Islamic and Anti-Muslim prejudice is however something we haven' t quite got a grip on yet, I feel.
However I would alter this recommendation slightly. When discussing Islam the religion, don't replace it with Judaism. Judaism is a religion closely linked with Jewish ethnicity and thus is not easily comparable with a universal religion like Islam. For me personally, I find it more effective to replace Islam with Christianity, and then imagine that Christianity is a minority religion. On the other hand the Jewish comparison works quite well when you look at bigoted remarks about Muslims as people. Try out some of the examples Gary Farber quotes and I think you'll see what I mean.
Just to be entirely clear, there is nothing wrong with criticising Islam the religion. It is not something for me as I prefer to sweep in front of my own door, but there is no reason to be opposed completely. As for hating Islam, that is slightly different and depends strongly on the context. If, like with Polly Toynbee, that hatred is combined with an equal hatred of all religion I would simply think it's a wrong way to look at religion per se which plays an important role in human existence and can't just be wished away. But if the only religion being subjected to hatred were Islam I would certainly feel that somebody is fishing around in murkier waters.
And this is where it comes to the question of being bigoted towards Muslims, as opposed to be being bigoted towards Islam. I know, many will think I'm trying to split hair atoms here, but I think there is a difference and that that difference is quite significant too. Hating Islam is at its worst just irritating and I wouldn't use the term Islamophobia to describe such an attitude that I would go talking of Christophobia, Hinduphobia etc. Islamophobia is a term I would use to describe a hatred of people who are Muslim. This hatred is then accompanied by a whole plethora of conspiracy theories and fear mongering. It breeds an image of Muslim people as incorrigibly evil and tries to eliminate their human individuality. If you find something and you're confused whether you think it fits this bill, just replace Muslim with Jew/Jewish and then see what effect it has and try to compare it to the kind of things the Nazis said about Jews. That is what I would understand as Islamophobic. And that is a dangerous bigotry that we must recognize and condemn as the evil it is.
Update: Had to make a highly embarrasing correction (see comments below).

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Wednesday, August 18, 2004

(Via Meryl Yourish) I really didn't know if I should laugh or cry at this:

After European representatives launched a campaign against Israel's separation fence, and voted against Israel at the UN general assembly, the EU is planning a separation fence of its own. The EU plans to build a fence to separate its new members - Poland and Hungary - from its new neighbors - Russia, Belarus and Ukraine - to prevent the free movement of migrants seeking to enter the EU.

Well, one fence is there to stop the taking of European jobs; the other is there to stop the taking of Jewish life. Looks a bit like those odd priorities surfacing yet again.

To be clear, the EU has every right to build that fence. Whether or not it's sensible policy is another matter. In effect it looks a lot less like Israel's barrier, but the one the US has on its border to Mexico. That was built originally for the same purpose of suppressing illegal migration. But hang in there a moment; it's not just that any more:

President Bush has launched a drive to halt illegal immigration across America's porous southern border, amid growing fears that terrorists may be using Mexico as a base camp before heading to Arizona, Texas and California.
A string of alarming incidents has convinced Bush administration officials that lax immigration rules, designed to cope with the huge numbers of illegal entrants from Mexico, have become a significant loophole in the war on terror.
Over the past month, border agents from Arizona and Texas have anonymously reported recent encounters with dozens of Arab men, who have made their way across the 2,000-mile Mexican border

It is feasible that something similar might occur, with terrorists trying to use the weaker policed states to the east of the EU as a bridge into Western Europe. Then Europe's new wall would begin serving a security interest.
Well, I think you can guess what's coming next now can't you? Yep, here's Larry Derfner explaining his reluctant acceptance of Israel's barrier:

Maybe it will turn out that Israel's wall is there not only because we can't solve our security problem with the Palestinians but also because we are a middle-class society rubbing up against a poor one. That's a much more deeply rooted problem than even the intifada or the occupation.

Perhaps, and tingling little shudder runs down my spine as I write this, perhaps, Gary Younge was right all along. Actually he isn't. The rich don't create the chaos, but I often feel we don't really do anything against it either. But that would be an honest and balanced argument. Walls all over the place! It all boggles the mind.

But how are these walls protected and patrolled? Via some lengthy link-jumping I just bumped into this photo-album of an Israeli soldier in which he records some scenes at a checkpoint. While some will certainly say this puts a more positive light on the Israeli army's checkpoints and their behaviour there than I would normally have assumed, I think this really underlines the whole insanity of the situation. The whole thing is deeply unpleasant for both sides, but, as is so often the case, normal people try to create themselves some normalcy wherever they are, just to stay sane. And then suddenly, mostly out of the blue, the faux normalcy is ripped to bits by explosions and gunfire.

But leaving political anthropology aside, this photo really caught my attention. Have a look at the byline:

The arab kids like to hang out with Dana

Kids? Yes, but they're all male and around 11-12 years old. I'm not surprised they like hanging out with Dana, they are after all at an age at which they kind of start getting curious about certain things in life and if I were them I think Dana wouldn't be a bad place to start at all . . . (That's enough pseudo-sexual innuendo for one day. -ed.)

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Saturday, August 14, 2004

Now, I'm perfectly aware that in the big scheme of the world's affairs this whole episode doesn't really matter that much, but I've been unable so far to get my teeth out of it, now that they've sunk in. A fairly new blogger cuts the bishy some slack (btw, what a cool title for a conservative blog, Salisbury Pages):

Bishop Lowe is right to remind patriotic, right of centre, Christians (of whom I'm unashamedly one) that they aren't called to put country before God, although in fairness he should also have pointed out that they are called to give the state the things due to it, which certainly include a high degree of personal loyalty. I'm not convinced that I Vow to Thee my Country does call us to put country before God, just before "all earthly things", but he's probably right to remind us of the dangers of unquestioning nationalism. He's just wrong to condemn nationalism unquestioningly.

I disagree with that point, because that is exactly why I think Bishop Lowe's comment is so wrong. I vow to Thee my Country not unabashedly patriotic and miles away from any sort of jingoism, in fact it simply restates in a moving manner the old dictum about rendering unto Caesar what is his due. This is the point: it asks that you put all earthly desires and wants behind that of the nation. Lowe's objection is therefore baseless. My soul and my conscience is not an "earthly thing". If the State's actions contradict these, as a Christian, I have the duty to say no. But when it is only about earthly things, my job, my car, my profit margins, a life of luxury or anything of the sort, my being a Christian is reconciled with being a member of a nation. (I'll leave aside that I also have a duty towards fellow humans who are not a member of my nation, because, contrary to popular opinion, these differing loyalties mostly don't conflict with each other anyway.) As I pointed out clearly yesterday, the C of E is a State Church, and it is entirely consistent that it has hymns and other elements of worship that reflect this fact. After all, this is a free country, if you find such closeness of Church and State spooky, you can easily hop out and go somewhere else, such as an Episcopal church (well I think it's funny. . . ). Why the Bishop of Hulme isn't able or willing to recognize something so obvious to an unskilled layman like me is a bit of different story though, but more on that another day.

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Friday, August 13, 2004

At first I thought I'd just try to ignore my annoyance at this:

An Anglican bishop wants to ban the hymn I Vow To Thee My Country - because it echoes Hitler's Germany and is "heretical".

For some reason my irritation hasn't subsided yet. I vow to Thee my Country is one of my favourite hymns, both musically and lyrically, so I suppose I can't really give it a rest. Laban Tall and "Tom Paine" have dealt with some of the key stupidities and so I urge you to give their posts a look too.
But the thing that I want to moan about now is the man's choice. His choice to become a part of the Church, when he quite obviously deeply disapproves of some key elements of it. Why did he join the Church in the first place? I mean, come on, it's even called the Church of England. It is the official Church of the British State and its head is also the embodiment of the State. To suddenly discover, after several decades of serving your way upwards to the position of bishop, that this institution had patriotic elements in it is rather unconvincing now, isn't it. He knew what he committing himself to. If that is not the kind of Christianity he wanted, he was and is entirely free to change his denomination or set up his own church. But there is no reason why he should now be allowed to start changing the C of E just like that. As I've pointed out over at Silent Running, the problem is the gulf between the leaders and the people of the C of E.
No doubt the number of people turning their backs on the C of E in alienation will only be increased by such behaviour of the Church's leadership. But I'm am not one of those who is for turning my back, at Silent Running, Gray Monk, articulates why I don't abandon the Church:

To those who want to see the C of E recover its sanity I say this - please join the congregations, please challenge the vicars, but do so from within the fold. Outside it you are not heard by those hiding inside. Inside you can do some good.

Just so.
Not all the commentary at Silent Running on the issue is quite such worthwhile, however. Opines an Andrew Ian Dodge:

The CoE has surrendered to Islam. They are more concerned about not upsetting Islamists than they are taking care of their own flock.

What?! The C of E's self-destruction has nothing to do with Islam. To insinuate otherwise looks more like an attempt to sneak some mindless Islamophobia through the back door and that is the last thing we need. This Dodge's comment is in fact a syndrome of something else. In a way, as I've argued before, the decline of sensible religion and confidence in our nation is one of the main causes for Islamophobia. While Bishop Lowe's leftist shenanigans can only further add to this, anti-Islamic prejudice would make any alternative to the currently dominant views in the C of E unpalatable.
A wholly disappointing and alienating affair.

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Thursday, August 12, 2004

In a way Jafar Dhia Jafar, who was head of Iraq's nuclear weapons programme and well connected in regards to other wmd-activity, should be the man to ask. I don't know why it took so long to get hold of him, but now the BBC has:

The head of Iraq's nuclear programme under Saddam Hussein has said Iraq destroyed its nuclear weapons programme in 1991 and never restarted it.
Jafar Dhia Jafar told the BBC sanctions and inspections worked in stopping the reconstitution of the programme.
He also said Iraq's chemical and biological weapons programmes were destroyed after the first Gulf War and never reactivated.
. . .
But Mr Jafar, whom the former Iraqi leader originally asked to build the country's nuclear bomb, said all nuclear development stopped in July 1991, under the orders of Saddam Hussein.
Jafar Dhia Jafar
He said he was probably a few years away from producing a nuclear bomb. [timmyhawk's quick note: thank you, Israel]
. . .
He added the Iraqi leader had hoped that UN sanctions would be lifted soon, adding that Iraq's strategic aims became ineffective when the US and UK became its adversaries.
. . .
He said that everything was destroyed, such that the programme could not be restarted at the time - and that it never restarted.
Similarly, the country's chemical and biological weapons programmes were stopped and never reactivated, he said.
"There was no capability," he said. "There was no chemical or biological or any of what are called weapons of mass destruction." Some materials were never accounted for, giving weapons inspectors reason to believe that there were still some weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
But Mr Jafar said that production figures were exaggerated, and the inspectors' estimates merely reflected the difference between existing materials and the inflated figures.
"That doesn't mean the material actually exists," he said. [timmyhawk wonders: huh? But then how can there be a difference? Anyways. . .]

To the extent that Jafar's statements are accurate, this interview has revealed that Saddam wasn't wasn't fooled or too stupid about the real wmd capabilities available to him. This brings us closer to understanding part of the riddle surrounding Iraqi wmd.
One possible scenario is that Saddam tried to trick the outside world, in order to maintain his standing in the region. That would explain the evasive and uncooperative behaviour of Iraq's wmd officials. This also explains why these officials along with the vast infrastructure of scientists, weapons dumps, laboratories and everything else were there, even though they obviously not making any large quantities of wmd. It was all a show. Quite an effective one too. Or was it?
As Jafar notes, Saddam believed the sanctions would eventually be lifted, a belief I shared with him, as the diplomatic support was constantly crumbling away. So it is also possible, and in light of the regime's past behaviour, more likely, that Saddam was keeping the ability to re-start a large-scale wmd-programme until the situation improved.
These are the two serious options for what happened on the Iraqi side in regards to those elusive wmds. Either way Saddam obviously misjudged our intent in the run-up to the invasion, thinking it was also just show, and that the coalition would be satisfied with some intense bombing like operation Desert Fox, back in 1998.
How does this revelation impact on the case for invading Iraq? Not at all really. I didn't think that Iraq had vast quantities of battle-ready wmd at the point of attack, and neither did Tony Blair and MI6. The argument was not so much about wmd, but more along the lines of: It's the regime, stupid! Also from an analytical point this is more of secondary importance, because the decisions about wmd rested on what our own intelligence agencies thought they know, which is a different story altogether.


- Following up from all the doom and gloom about Iran on this site, Nick Kristof warns that An American Hiroshima is all too likely. As ever with these issue it makes for alarming reading, but I think at one point some of his speculation will be met with mixed emotions:

The blast would partly destroy a much larger area, including the United Nations.

To be clear I'm not advocating a nuclear strike against the UN HQ, but you have to wonder if the world would really be worse off . . .

- Philip Johnston explains why it's only the middle classes are crippled by inheritance tax. He's too right too. The Adam Smithies concur. I'm not sure I'd support a complete abolition, but a massive and far reaching change of inheritance laws is overdue.

-Here's an excellent essay dealing with the decision to invade Iraq. It's a nice, concise read.

-Also, where that came from, there is this great posting on how the ethnic cleansers and genocidal maniacs of the world can avoid getting themselves in trouble.

-Over at EU Referendum there are two sharp pieces dispelling the notion of the EU's democratic nature. They're both a good reminder and a good introduction if you've never heard the argument spelled out: Part 1, Council of Ministers, Part 2 EU parliament.

-To end, Shmuley Boteach skilfully argues that round-figured women are wrongly maligned, with dire consequences all around:

Thinness may have become synonymous with beauty in America, but it is decimating the erotic life of marriage. In multiple sexual surveys, one of the biggest complaints that husbands voice about their wives is that they rarely initiate sex and are far too reserved in the bedroom. But can we really expect the American wife to be sexually adventurous when she is permanently self-conscious about her weight? It makes sense that women who feel unattractive will choose to hide under the covers.

He's rigth, but you try telling any woman who doesn't have the figure of a stick insect that her body is perfect . . . They'll never believe you, even, or maybe especially, if it's true. Read it all.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Found via NRO, I just love this:

You don't support Democrats.
Why should your ketchup?
W Ketchup(tm) is made in America, from ingredients grown in the USA.

See it, to believe it. It certainly gives the word partisan taste a new meaning. At least it's for a good cause:

A portion of every sale is donated to the Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarships for the children of active duty service members killed in the line of duty.

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The thing with the mad mullahs is, you never really know if they're serious or not. The other thing is, you never really know if you should laugh or cry. (A decision rather easy with this, undoubtedly one of my favourite news stories of all time.) But these latest ramblings are a bit much:
Iran has issued an extraordinary list of demands to Britain and other European countries, telling them to provide advanced nuclear technology, conventional weapons and a security guarantee against nuclear attack by Israel.
I'm rubbing my eyes. But while we're at it I think a security guarantee against nuclear attack would be a cool idea - for Israel. Just a quick reminder , it's Iran that's threatening to wipe Israel off the map with nukes. That's a threat that Israel has not reciprocated. In fact Israel would have all the right in the world to strike Iran first, and may well do so too.
Teheran's request, said by British officials to have "gone down very badly", sharply raises the stakes in the crisis over Iran's nuclear programme, which Britain and America believe is aimed at making an atomic bomb.
Ah, the cool, so very British understatement: "gone down very badly". Really? And there was me thinking what a great idea this really is, a sound basis for constructive diplomacy.
The EU-3 are still debating over how to respond, but British officials said the Iranian letter was "extremely surprising, given the delicate state of process". Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, will have to decide whether to adopt a more confrontational policy.
No surprise I'm afraid, that Iranian position. They're certainly becoming desperate. It's a very logical manoeuvre to change the subject and throw a spanner in the works if you realise you're about to lose in diplomacy. As for that more confrontational strategy, it's well past the time to start thinking about it. But just let me be clear that thinking and acting are not the same. I don't think acting heavily against Iran would currently be a good idea. Perhaps that

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Tuesday, August 10, 2004

I can neither summarise nor quote from today this comment by Brenda Shaffer in the IHT, it is simply to dense to cut short. Also I have little to addd, except to say she's rigth. Well, the policies are abundantly clear, we can only hope that our leaders get a little more serious about the whole affair.

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Look I don't mind too much if a publication decides it wants to restrict some or all of its content to subscribers, but they could at least make it clear which bits are which. The Atlantic Monthly, a really good magazine btw, has some bits you can open, but then you suddenly discover after three or four paragrpahs that the rest if subs only. Irritates me at least. Unfortunately two of the think-pieces linked to on my sidebar -Paul Starobin:Dawn of the Daddy State and Robert Kaplan: The coming Anarchy- are now sub-only, so they'll be going when I put up the new template as promised yesterday. Nuisance.

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Monday, August 09, 2004

A year ago today I made my first posting. Because of this special event I've decided to quote Groan, the Torygraph, the Speccie, Weekly Standard, Prospect or any number of publications to write for them. Look, I'm certainly cheaper than the other people you pay, and anyway, I always give you guys a link. C'mon, gizza a job . . .

Looking back is always a point to look forward too. So what will be happening here in the near future? Several bits and bobs in fact. I'll finally get round to putting up my profile and if I master it I'll get myself some sort of photoblogging thingy up and running. Also I want to change the design of the site a little. I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet, but expect to see a change in the next few days.
Along with the design change I'll be updating my blogroll too. First up I'll be sending the sleeping blogs off away until they perhaps wake up. So, it'll be goodbye to au currant, Full Spectrum Democracy, Beirut Calling and UK Free Democracy. Blogs come and go quite rapidly and too often the ones you really like reading vanish so quickly. Gil Shterzer's was always worth reading and often had some cool popular culture stuff. I also wonder what became of Mrs LibDem? Politically quite disagreeable, but actually well written.

Some go, others come: Voice of the Future, written by a man who has good taste in music and a voice of a younger type of conservative (hence the title I suppose), House of Dumb is often witty, though quite to the right of me, God save the Queen I've have also been reading for a while now, lots of good analysis. There are a lot of other good blogs out there, some of them I read fairly regularly, but I can't make up my mind which ones to link to. Additionally I once had this ambition to cut down the number of links on my roll, but I think they are just going to increase after all.

As befits such an occasion I also have a lot of good intentions. Number one would certainly be to have a posting a day. I've been posting for a year now and I just have little over 200 posts here. Add to that the fact that I actually made up statistically in the last few weeks when there was less time-pressure on me from uni. I hope I can somehow get that sorted in future with my final year approaching rather fast.

It's is fine tact to thank you all my readers, and of course I do; wouldn't really be that much point in running a blog entirely for myself now would there. Thanks of course also to those of you who link to me.

Anyhows, that's a brief glimpse towards good things to come; there will be more, so keep reading . . .


It just gives my day that extra spice when I sit down in the mornings and the first thing I read in the newspaper is this:

American intelligence officials and outside nuclear experts have concluded that the Bush administration's diplomatic efforts with European and Asian allies have barely slowed the nuclear weapons programs in Iran and North Korea over the past year, and that both have made significant progress.

Well, there’s a surprise. Not. Diplomacy is all nice and well, but it needs something else to work than good words, and in both cases, any notion that the violating countries would be threatened with anything as harsh as a UN resolution saying they’re naugthy boys, has been off the screen for a good while now.
Perhaps something should have been done earlier?

"It's a much harder thing to accomplish today," said one senior American intelligence official, "than it would have been in the '90s."

Ah yes, but in the 1990s nobody in the developed world was interested in such stuff as war and weapons and all that. And Bill Clinton certainly didn’t seem care in earnest. Again this episode sadly shows what a catastrophe Bill Clinton’s time in office has been for global security. While I’m not much of an instinctive fan of Bush’s foreign policies, I will at least say in his defence that he’s largely trying to mop up the problems Bill Clinton should have dealt with. Problems that could have been dealt with far more easily too, and in a much nicer manner, without sabre rattling and preemption and endless diplomatic rows and . . . you get my point.

"It's very frustrating," said one former official who left the Bush administration recently and who believes that the administration has failed to draw clear "red lines" beyond which North Korea would not be allowed to expand its arsenal.
. . .
On July 31, Iran announced that it was resuming the production of centrifuges needed to produce highly enriched uranium, though it said it was still "suspending" actual enrichment activities. While the United States has threatened to take the issue to the UN Security Council, it has yet to win support from many allies.

That’s the European way. Coincidentally that’s where would be today in regards to Iraq if Bush hadn’t been such a "unilateralist". Just a cautionary tale that the "sophisticated" EUropeans certainly don’t know better all the time. I mean they keep going on about how great all this UN-thingy is, but then baulk at actually using it for anything sensible. And that includes sadly our own Government.
What a whopping failure all round.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

With their overmaster rather pointlessly facing court, the question everyone is asking what are Saddam's legions of doubles up to these days? Well, via Mick Hartley,
here's the answer . . .

Via the Belmont Club, No Caliban observes this on our terrorist enemy:

These terrorists do not want our money or land or respect. They want our souls.

Asketh the Economist:

Why is it so hard for Arabs to act together to solve the region's manifold problems, from the humanitarian crisis in Sudan to the turmoil in Iraq and Palestine?

Here's an answer: Arab elites like to blame somebody else in particular - guess who. (To which, coincidentally, if it were true, the proper response should be: if only.) If you think about a problem in the wrong way you'll end up trying to solve it in the wrong way. One reason that. The Economist has some others.

Friday, August 06, 2004

What got me thinking was this posting of Norm's. Go and read it and then try and imagine how on earth JFK ever managed to get anything done with that lot running around the house. And as for Eisenhower: what a weirdo. I mean, a pig and a squirrel?

Danny Kushlick of the Transform Drug Policy Foundation explains the hidden costs of drug prohibition:

Transform estimates that drug prohibition has cost between £100bn and £200bn over the past 20 years. The government estimates that it currently costs £20bn a year.
. . .
There are 8 million heavy drinkers in the UK of whom 2 million are very heavy drinkers. The crime costs associated with the misuse of alcohol are £7.3bn a year - most of it violent crime. There is little property crime associated with alcohol use and none committed by the UK's 12 million tobacco users. Our million prescription tranquilliser addicts are not begging on street corners or breaking into houses. A far smaller population of heroin and crack users commit far more crimes, purely because their daily habit is prohibitively expensive.

. . .
Prohibition is a major cause of theft, is responsible for violent turf wars, contributes to urban degeneration and makes criminals of millions of otherwise law-abiding people.
. . . Prohibition also contributes significantly to the destabilisation of most of Latin America, Afghanistan and the Caribbean.

So far so good. But I wonder if this aside was strictly necessary:

Problematic use is clearly linked to social deprivation and only tackling its root causes will significantly reduce the numbers of new problem users. It is no coincidence that Britain has some of the highest levels of problematic use in Europe and one of the widest gaps between rich and poor.

Now, first of all studies about this link are ambivalent and by no means as clear as he suggests. For example one could easily ask about a linkage between religious observance and drug misuse. Why doesn't he say that the decline of Christianity in Britain has caused the large wave of drug misuse? Unlike the rich-poor gap this link is easily established by historical experience. In the 19th century different church movements were busy trying to make Britain a better place (how successful they were is another matter). Drugs, including heroin, cocaine and opium smoking were freely available and nobody thought of banning them. At the same time there was no problem. The gap between rich and poor, the gulf between the classes was infinitely bigger than it is today. So arguing that differences in wealth are the sole or even the main cause is nonsense. To be clear about this, religion isn't it either necessarily. Perhaps Kushlik wrote that because his article is in the Guardian, but I'm not so sure. I often find that people who support decriminalisation and legalisation are ideologically not quite in the same camp as me, to put a fine point on it. This is regrettable. There are many sensible right-wing arguments, both conservative and libertarian, that can be made in favour of such a change in policy. By using the cause of drug freedom in such an ideologically narrow way is making a multi-partisan consensus on the issue unnecessarily difficult.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Well yesterday I had decided not to look at the usual suspects moaning about Gibraltar. How usual is this suspect though? Max Hastings is supposedly the Guardian's conservative columnist, because even its normal brand of readers will want a bit of diversity now and then. In that regard I'm not so sure Hastings is the best choice. With the exception of defence policy, any conservative credentials Max Hastings may ever have had are slowly but definitely fading away. This piece of his on Gibraltar is a case in point:

Unlike the Falklands and Argentina, the Rock is physically attached to Spain. Who can be surprised that its continued status as a bastion of British empire makes the Spanish very angry indeed?

What a convincing argument that is! The Republic of Ireland is physically attached to the UK at its border to Northern Ireland and the Irish Sea isn't really that wide either come to think of it, Ireland used to be under British control, so really, by Hastings' logic we should be arguing for the annexation of the Irish republic. Here's a thought: perhaps sovereignty should be decided and be based on other considerations than geography. Why then after all is Portugal an independent state or Spain for that matter? They sit on roughly the same larger geographic space, that the British territory of Gibraltar is; perhaps we should annex them both.

At an Anglo-Spanish political conference a few years ago, I was impressed by the number of thoughtful liberal Spanish delegates who emphasised to the British that Gibraltar is not merely a jingo issue which their government occasionally makes a fuss about. It is a source of deep-seated resentment.

To which I can only say: Get over it. If you just give it a rest no one should really have to care about it. And anyway, what is this deep-seated resentment if not jingoism? Resentment at what? A lost war centuries ago? A British Gibraltar harms no one.

Yet a British Labour government thinks it politic to dispatch a warship and a cabinet minister to join the celebrations.

I think that doesn't really amount to much if you ask me. I agree with Laban Tall that Hoon is a dreadful choice and if I were prime minister I would have gone personally, dragged our good Liz II along and declared a national holiday.

Perhaps Tony Blair is so cross about Spain's withdrawal of its soldiers from Iraq, and so despairing of any amiable colloquy about Europe with Spain's socialist government that he doesn't care any more.

Some good points not to give a monkey about Spanish opinion, but our Max strangely fails to see the accuracy of his argument. To call Spain our ally is just non-sense. In the sense that we're both in NATO and the EU, okay, but that's about it. What else is Spain good for Britain for? Aznar was in terms of his Atlantic, free market and sovereignist attitudes towards the EU an abberation and not the rule of Spanish politics.

Yet even many of those of us who have become sceptical about joining the euro or signing the European constitution want Britain to engage constructively with Europe. How likely are we to achieve this if we flaunt the union flag in the face of the Spanish in a manner worthy of the British National party?

If only we we allow Spain to occupy and colonise Gibraltar, we would be able to shape the EU just as we like. Sounds fantastic. Literally. And what is the point about that BNP jibe? Just childish Mr Hastings. I wonder who needs to grow up?
In fairness, Hastings makes a few good points about the rather dodgy financial services industry in Gibraltar. However, while most of his criticism here is accurate it is again irrelevant. What does it matter to the issue of democratic self-determination that some members of the government are corrupt and have friends who are crooks? Where would that in fact leave virtually every peoples' right to self-determination?
And this is where Hastings' major mistake lies, in regards to the right of Gibraltarians to decide their nationality:

It is emotional and nostalgic, protected by a figleaf of principle about the absolute rights of local populations, however tiny.
. . .
It is ludicrous to suggest that the populations of such places as the Falklands or Gibraltar should possess an absolute veto on all debate about their future.

But that's the whole fuss: they are not to be given any choice on their future, either from the Spanish side or the British Government. If the Spaniards are allowed to be angry over a British possession that doesn't do them any harm, the Gibraltarians and those of us in mainland Britain who support them have every rigth to be angry that their democratic right to self-determination, their sovereignty and their citizenship are to be stripped from them forcibly, without debate.
Hastings is however spot on with this:

Today, that same government has dispatched Hoon to add official glamour to the 300th anniversary celebrations, unless the choice of the defence secretary represents an elaborate joke by Downing Street.

What else could it possibly be?

Yet the fact that Britain cannot summon the will to extricate itself from Gibraltar suggests a nation - us, not them - which has not grown up.

Although he doesn't say why we are being cildish, and not the Spanish. I think for an impartial observer both sides probably look pretty childish. But that's the whole point of the dispute: for both sides it's childish and somewhat jingoistic to insist on their viewpoint. But why should we back down then? The argument of democracy and commen sense, as I made clear yesterday, are clearly on our side. So why should Britain back down? There is no reason, but self-belittlement. Perhaps not surprising form the Guardian where you expect that sort of thing, but from Max Hastings disappointing. Hastings often proclaims a love for the Services, but his attitudes are from removed from theirs. The British military ethos and esprit de corps rests on the affection for often eccentric left-overs from the past; as indeed any conservative does too. Which again underlines my earlier point that he doesn't really work as a conservative. And just to think, he used to be the editor of the Daily Telegraph. It makes me shudder.
But talking of the Telegraph, here's something sensible on Gibraltar:

The Blair administration wanted to sell Gibraltar down the river in exchange for Spanish friendship in Europe, to counterbalance the Franco-German axis. This scheme was upset in any case by Spain's election this year of a Socialist government, far less to Mr Blair's taste. Its first eager act was to order its troops out of Iraq, where they had been co-operating with British forces.
. . .
Spain will not be mollified by being reminded of its enclaves in Morocco: Ceuta and Melilla. The farce two years ago of Morocco's seizure and Spain's recapture of Perejil - goat-ridden Parsley Island - shows that reason does not touch territorial totems. But Gibraltar remains no more Spanish than Jersey is French. The Government must say so plainly, to establish Anglo-Spanish relations in reality, and for the sake of the people of Gibraltar, whose determination is unwavering.

Just so. As far as I'm concerned the solution to the whole problem is the full integration of Gibraltar into the United Kingdom with all that entails: own MP, cast iron sovereignty and an end to the wrangling with Spain, but also the same tax rates and financial services standards. In the context of the EU a little piece of Britain at the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula shouldn't be an issue, any larger than any other border crossing.

PS: Here's the link to the excellent piece in the Economist I quoted at length yesterday. Sorry, but it's subscribers only.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Thanks to Norm for the link:

If only more Americans had read more Hobbes maybe we would not be in the mess we are today. His predictions of the collapse of society are very apt.

Muhammad Mubarak, an Iraqi philosopher and obviously a man the Coalition should have asked for some advice.

Gibraltar is today celebrating its tercentennary as a British territory. I will avoid watching any coverage of the event because I already know how it will be spoilt, by whining Spaniards and even more whining guilt-plagued bleeding heart Brits, two groupings that will be given more than adequate coverage by the "B"BC and spoil any fun the celebrations would be otherwise. Perhaps I'll watch it with the sound switched off.
What irritates me the most about the whole story is how pointless the Spanish political class's behaviour really is. By and large no Spaniards, or anybody else for that matter, are suffering from the current status (and a few euros in missing taxes hardly count as "suffering"). Now imagine that somehow Gibraltar does end up in Spanish posession. How are the locals going to react? Let's face it, the Spanish are going to be about as welcome as "liberators" as the Argentines were on the Falklands. Can you imagine how the apparent ending of a colonial status for the Gibraltarians would look like on tv? No smiling faces as the hated oppressors leave but instead the exact opposite, demonstrations, stone throwing, jeering and the like against representatives of the Spanish state. This would be no image of an end of foreign occupation, but its exact opposite. Is that really what the Spanish leadership wants to see?
And how would that reflect on Britain? We'd look like a bunch of spineless fools, who merrily handed over thousands of our compatriots to foreign rule against their will.
Anyway, here's some sound reasoning on the issue by the Economist from a while ago (can't find the link anymore):

IN PAST centuries, the rulers of Europe traded territories and their citizens like sheep. Gibraltar was one: by a treaty signed in Utrecht in 1713, the king of Spain-unwisely, but he did it-ceded the Rock to Britain. Though the British soon broke its terms, allowing, oh horror, Jews and "Moors" to live there, that treaty still stands. As for the now 28,000 Gibraltarians, today's British and Spanish governments seem to think that the princely disdain of 1713 stands with it. They are wrong.
Spaniards say their country has a "historic claim" to Gibraltar. The word is "claim"; history says they haven't a leg to stand on. Geography is little more help. Europe is dotted with spots- Greek islands next to Turkey, German and Italian enclaves in Switzerland, a Spanish one in France-which geography might allocate to other owners but law and common sense do not.
. . .
And that is the real scandal of this affair. The "problem" of Gibraltar is a Spanish invention. Spain's government has unleashed patriotic fervour over a bit of land lost three centuries ago for which it has no case in law and no practical need; and in rank defiance of the principle that people should, when possible, be governed as they choose. If Gibraltarians wanted joint sovereignty, or indeed to be Spanish, fine, let's do it at once. But they don't. Yet Britain's government has gone halfway along with the denial of democracy. Let it rediscover a spine, and Spain drop its claim, and there would be no Gibraltar affair. Some hope; but that's what both ought to do.

If you want to read anything else, I recommend John Keegan who makes many points I would otherwise have made, Simon Young having a poke at the Spanish position and this assessment by Thomas Grant detailing where the debate over Gibraltar sits in wider geopolitical questions; particularly interesting for any American readers.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Thanks to the House of Dumb for linking me to this clear list of arguments against home schooling:

• Most parents were educated in the underfunded public school system, and so are not smart enough to homeschool their own children.
• Children who receive one-on-one homeschooling will learn more than others, giving them an unfair advantage in the marketplace. This is undemocratic.
• How can children learn to defend themselves unless they have to fight off bullies on a daily basis?
• Ridicule from other children is important to the socialization process.
• Children in public schools can get more practice "Just Saying No" to drugs, cigarettes and alcohol.
• Fluorescent lighting may have significant health benefits.
• Publicly asking permission to go to the bathroom teaches young people their place in society.
• The fashion industry depends upon the peer pressure that only public schools can generate.
• Public schools foster cultural literacy, passing on important traditions like the singing of "Jingle Bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg..."
• Homeschooled children may not learn important office career skills, like how to sit still for six hours straight.


Monday, August 02, 2004

Fourteen years ago today:

1990: Iraq invades Kuwait
More than 100,000 Iraqi soldiers backed up by 700 tanks invaded the Gulf state of Kuwait in the early hours of this morning.
Iraqi forces have established a provisional government and their leader Saddam Hussein has threatened to turn Kuwait city into a "graveyard" if any other country dares to challenge the "take-over by force".

In effect this is the moment the war we are still embroiled in has its beginning. This beginning is in both strategic terms and in terms of justification.
Strategically the problem was Saddam's dangerous regional ambitions that could only be stopped by removing him from power. For the regional balance of power a united and strong-looking Iraq was however necessary to keep Iran in check. So the Iranian regime has to go too. Until this implodes the West needed to take over Iraq's balancing role. This is currently happening and the Iraqi part of this endeavour is slowly coming to an end.
In terms of justification this date matters because this is the moment the Gulf/Iraq war was started by an act of aggression by Saddamite Iraq. Hence the coalition was and is justified both morally and legally to bring this conflict to an end we think appropriate.
So when will it be over? It will be over on the last day coalition forces in Iraq carry out the last combat operations to maintain internal order. Of course we will only be able to determine that date in hindsight.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

A new line of attack against the regime change in Iraq being deployed increasingly is to downplay or deny Saddam's crimes. To this Christopher Hitchens has a stern rebuke:

Sure, he says breezily: "Saddam gassed the Kurds. Yes, an unknown number of Iraqi citizens were tortured and slaughtered." But that -- with its casually "unknown number" -- apparently counts only against today's regime-change because Iraq was then being backed by Washington. (I interrupt myself to ask whether or not one might approve of Washington's change of policy here?)
. . .
Well, I am no friend of sanctimony. But when I stood on the mass grave at Hilla, near Babylon, about a year ago, I was upset not just by the huge number of cadavers, which by the way ran into the thousands. I was upset by the relatives who'd had to wait a decade to inspect the place, and who had found that the water table had washed a lot of the bodies away. A possible shred of clothing, or fragment of an identity card, is not much consolation in these circumstances. Indeed, many of the relatives had acted against their own interests, here as elsewhere, by rushing to the site as soon as the murderer had fallen, and by digging with their bare hands.

In fact just read it all read it all.

After I had just recently, and quite rightly, criticised the French government's behaviour vis a vis the situation in Dafur, I feel I must apologise a little to the government of la Grande Nation:

France is deploying 200 soldiers to help secure Chad's eastern border with Sudan's conflict-torn Darfur region.
The French Ambassador to Chad, Jean Pierre Bercot, said the troops would also bring humanitarian aid to tens of thousands of Darfur refugees in Chad.

Which is at least a step forward, unlike the toothless pseudo-resolution passed by the UN Security Council. David Aaronovitch has more.

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