Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Justifiable Hamaside.

Whenever there is a war on involving Israel and a terrorist group like Hamas, we invariably hear about the seething anger of the 'Arab Street' who all want to see Israel destroyed. So this is a turn up:
The funeral of the killed assassinated dead egyptian border officer was attended by 30,000 of his countrymen, who according to al masry alyoum, turned the event into an anti-Hamas rally, shouting anti-Hamas slogans, and rightly stating that his blood is on Hamas' hands.
In Britain there have, thus far, only been rallies against the other side of the conflict so we are behind the Egyptians on that one.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Blair- Still Got The Old Magic.

It's nice to see that Tony Blair is having as much success in his role as Middle East peace envoy as he had as Prime Minister. In fairness the Israeli Palestinian situation has always been volatile even before his Tonyness came along saying "look guys, how come you don't have the Christmas spirit over here?".

The Independent reports that:
Three Israelis killed as Hamas launches revenge attacks
Which isn't really true seeing as it was Hamas's rocket attacks that precipitated the current situation. Perhaps Hamas were taking preemptive revenge.

I'm not sure whether Israel's actions are correct or appropriate. Allowing rocket attacks to continue is clearly not an option but the Prime Minister is corrupt and demonstrably incompetent so who knows whether this is the best response or whether it is being done with one eye on the upcoming Israeli elections? It would be nice if there were a means of targeting those who fire the rockets without endangering civilians but without effective intelligence gathering that is difficult to do.

However the way the UK media have been reporting the situation is misleading in that it present every Israeli action as occurring in a vacuum with no context given for why they are doing it whereas Hamas's behaviour is presented as being a reaction to what Israel does rather than the conscious choices of sentient individuals.

As with Hezbollah's unprovoked attack on Israel two years ago, territory that Israel had completely withdrawn from is being used as a platform to attack and murder Israelis. This clearly undermines the case for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and East Jerusalem so you would have imagined that opponents of Israel's presence in the West Bank would have been the loudest in denouncing Hamas and Hezbollah but instead there is a long pause followed by a barrage of propaganda and conspiracy theories to excuse them.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Are You More Intelligent Than Andy Burnham?

Okay new poll. The question is this:
How should the government stop loonies putting decapitation videos on the internet?
  • Clamp down on beheadings.
  • Clamp down on the internet.
Update: By a margin of 17 to 1 (thanks Andy), my readers are more intelligent than Andy Burnham.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

'Not An Attack On Free Speech'

"If you look back at the people who created the internet, they talked very deliberately about creating a space that governments couldn't reach. I think we are having to revisit that stuff seriously now."
Culture Secretary Andy Burnham. The man's intense Stalinism is only mitigated by the fact he's a fuckwit:
Other safeguards mooted by Burnham include compelling websites such as YouTube and Facebook to remove offensive material within a specified time after they have been alerted to it, and changing Britain's libel laws to make it cheaper for people to sue publishers if they have been defamed online. Internet providers will be urged to adopt the proposals in the new year, but if that failed to work, Burnham said the proposals might have to be enshrined in law.

Burnham, a father of three, insisted his proposals were not intended as an attack on freedom of speech
And when I throw a large rock at Andy Burnham's smug face it isn't intended to inflict physical injury it will simply happen to be the inevitable effect. If you still haven't been convinced of his sheer fucking stupidity:
He plans to approach US president-elect Barack Obama's incoming administration with proposals for tight international rules on English language websites
The cretin hasn't heard of the 1st amendment.


Update: It is worth bearing in mind that this plan is not only crazed and authoritarian it is also completely unworkable. Andy Burnham really is the stupidest cabinet minister in recent memory, he is like the secret lovechild of John Prescott and Harriet Harman who's been dropped on his head a few too many times.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Harold Comedy Dies.

In the wake of Harold Pinter's death the Grauniad republishes one of the genocide supporters articles that he did for them. In this paragraph he asks a number of questions:

Sometimes you look back into recent history and you ask: did all that really happen? Were half a million "communists" massacred in Indonesia in 1965 (the rivers clogged with corpses)?

No

Were 200,000 people killed in East Timor in 1975 by the Indonesian invaders?
No, around 18000 civilians were killed. This is horrible but vastly less than those killed in places like Bosnia where he supported the genocide.
Have 300,000 people died in Central America since 1960?
No. Given the population of central America that would be an absurdly low figure even it the region were like Switzerland.

Has the persecution of the Kurdish people in Turkey reached levels which approach genocide?
No.

Are countless lraqi children dying every month for lack of food and medicine brought about by UN sanctions?

No they were dying because Saddam's regime whim he was an apologist for sold all the food and medicine to build palaces.

Did the military coups in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Chile result in levels of repression and depth of suffering comparable to Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia and the Khmer Rouge?
No. Millions of people died in Germany, Cambodia and Russia compared to a few thousand in the Latin American dictatorships. Disgusting as they were the Juntas were less murderous than a certain other Latin American regime that Pinter also supports. It is a form of genocide denial to place the crimes of Nazi Germany on a level with those of Pinochet's Chile.

Whilst the regimes that Pinter condemned were frequently murderous and despicable that was not why he condemned them as can be shown by his wholehearted enthusiasm for far more murderous regimes who happen to be anti-American. His only motivation was an intense xenophobic hatred of the United States.

No doubt he was a great playwright and those who knew him as a person have my sincere sympathies but he should not be portrayed as some kind of moral inspiration which he clearly was not.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Is Cancelled.

Obama Exonerates Obama.

The scandal surrounding the sale of Obama's senate seat threatens to taint the incoming president. Not to worry though, according to the news reports:
Report clears Obama, Transition Team
So that's that dealt with. It's good to know that the President Elect is free from any hint of scandal and so is his team. So who produced this impartial report that so clearly exonerates him and his staff? Well they did:
As President-elect Obama vacationed in Hawaii, his lawyers released a report detailing contacts between the Transition Team and embattled Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. The conclusion? There was no wrong doing.
He must be breathing a sigh of relief after his own lawyers cleared him.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Getting What You Pay For.

The problem I referred to a couple of days ago is still ongoing, so if back links to my posts are appearing on your site then my apologies but I'm not spamming you.

I've just discovered that Blogger are literally impossible to contact so I can't ask them what the problem is being caused by. They used to be contactable, I know because I did so back in 2006. This could violate my privacy, google/blogger is leaving a sign of which blogs I visit, now as it happens I don't visit (many) porn blogs, for example, but if I did stumble across one then the whole world would know as a banklink to this site appears.

Blogger's uselessness is hard to overstate, the provide a 'help group', where lots of other people who are experiencing the same problem can ask for help, but no one who can solve the problem is there. They also have a method of reporting a bug, but only from a preexisting menu of known bugs. So that is pretty much useless.

I realise that blogger is a free service, but even so their customer service is abysmal and it didn't used to be.

Update: Thinking about the problem some more.
  • It affects some other bloggers, so the problem isn't unique there is unlikely to be caused by my own hardware and software.
  • It has emerged recently so it isn't something wrong with the way that I configure my blog.
  • It is only affecting a small number of bloggers, so much so that even on relatively popular sights my unintentional spam is often alone.
  • Other bloggers are complaining about broken widgets.
  • As the problem is unique to Blogger but not universal or even common among all users it might be the result of a broken widget.
  • I shall try getting rid of most of my widgets, and disable banklinks on this site.

Community Work.

I've just been reading something about sectarian divisions in Northern Ireland and how they have worsened in recent years. I realise that this probably makes me a very bad person, but one of the reasons given for increased tensions strikes me as being extremely funny:
Of 214 kids who had attacked children of the other religion, 158 said they recognised them from cross-community schemes.'

Monday, December 22, 2008

The 'Break Your Legs' Charter.

Breaking into some one's home and then physically assaulting them is usually considered a crime, the main exception to this is when the police arrest somebody suspected of a serious crime. It is an extraordinary power and the law only grants it to the police after a warrant has been submitted for approval to a judge.

In this recession it is likely that millions of people will face real financial hardship for the first time. This situation is made even worse by the fact that a debt bubble was encouraged and borrowers were urged to take out unfeasibly large loans.

So naturally the government has decided that now would be a good time to give debt collection agencies the right to break your legs after they force their way into your house.

The government has been accused of trampling on individual liberties by proposing wide-ranging new powers for bailiffs to break into homes and to use “reasonable force” against householders who try to protect their valuables.

Under the regulations, bailiffs for private firms would for the first time be given permission to restrain or pin down householders. They would also be able to force their way into homes to seize property to pay off debts, such as unpaid credit card bills and loans.

The idea of giving private citizens to pin down other citizens who aren't posing a threat to anyone would be extraordinary even without the credit crunch. Often the reason for an outstanding debt is an innocent misunderstanding, such as a householder mistaking utility company's letters for junk mail or assuming that their direct debit was taking care of it. Even when the debt has been incurred through the debtors own mistakes it is often the case that the government, the banks and credit card companies were egging them on. That shouldn't be sufficient to grant some thug the right to manhandle you to the ground and take your property out of your newly kicked in front door.

I haven't had much contact with the bailiffs, but from what I have heard, the employees they use to 'persuade' debtors to cough up aren't exactly the shy and retiring types. They are often steroid pumped men who couldn't get work as bouncers because of their criminal records and face tattoos. When they have the legal right to grapple a householder to ground it isn't hard to imagine how the situation could escalate to something more serious. It also isn't hard to imagine how much fear it would create in the minds of anyone who misses a payment, even if they aren't likely to be subject to the bailiffs.

This is being proposed by a government that has itself amassed a historically unprecedented level of debt that will exceed £20000 per household in a few years, according to the government's own historically optimistic forecasts.

Quacks

There has been a slew of columns about the conviction of Robert Napper for the murder of Rachel Nickell, and the role that a well known psychologist, Paul Britton, played in leading the investigation astray. Nick Cohen who covered the case for a long time has a particularly good article on the matter:

Detectives discounted his denial, which was convincing when you consider he had an incentive to say anything that might please his strange girlfriend. The point of the undercover exercise was not to extract a confession from Stagg, as no judge would have allowed a jury to hear evidence from a honey trap. Britton's pseudo-science aimed at securing more than a mere admission. He believed that his academic insights had given him the psychological profile of the killer.

Detectives set "Lizzie James" on Stagg to see if he matched Britton's description of a murderer, who was excited by his victim's fear and had a "deviant interest in buggery". When Britton ruled that the local loner did, the police believed him. Police say that Britton also told them that the murders of Rachel Nickell and Samantha and Jazmine Bissett were not the work of the same man, although Britton disputes this.

The specifics of Britton's folly are gruesome enough. As professor David Canter of Liverpool University said at the time, he barely mentioned the most striking and revolting aspect of the case: that the killer murdered Rachel Nickell in front of her child. As William Clegg, Stagg's QC, added at the trial, the transcripts of the conversations between his client and "Lizzie James" showed only that Stagg was a friendless man going along with a domineering but beautiful woman.

But dwelling in the detail misses the wider point. Just as dissenting economists are asking by what right their conventional colleagues demand to be taken seriously when no more than a handful warned of a coming banking crisis, so Parliament and the public should be wondering by what right psychologists demand a hearing.

It is not a reputable profession. The British Psychological Society dismissed all charges of misconduct against Britton in 2002, and no-one else has held him to account for what he did to Stagg and, indeed, to "Lizzie James", who went on to suffer a nervous breakdown.

Paul Britton purported to have an insight into how killers think. He was at best deluded. Psychologists haven't merely enabled killers to remain uncaught but, through their 'expert' advice to parole boards, have also enabled known murderers to be released. Killers are relatively rare and in depth stides of them even more so. This means that there isn't a great deal of actual evidence for psychologists to test theories against and therefore conclusions drawn from them should only be accepted provisionally and never be applied to real life situations as though they were scientifically proven laws.

It might not be true to dismiss the whole field as charlatanry, after all it is so wide ranging that what is true for part of the profession is not true for all of it, however there is clearly a tendency on the part of psychologists to pretend to have a more profound insight into the human mind than is the case. As the most media friendly branches of psychology are those that purport to offer shortcuts to solving big problems such as crimes or personal afflictions this means that most of the public faces of psychology are quacks and frauds.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Blog Problem.

Blogger has a "Links to this post" function which does exactly what enables people referring to a post to let it be known.

At the moment this function appears to be malfunctioning and several of my posts are being filled with links that are of no relevance and even more strangely several other blogs are also being filled with trackbacks to this site (among others), even though I haven't used the feature to put them up. So I am not spamming anyone with links to my posts, it is a technical fault.

Quote Of The Day.

What we must do, I suggest, is introduce a new concept of universal compulsory volunteering.
Melanie Reid in the Times putting the moron in oxymoron.

{Via here and here.}

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Elections Are Unrepresentative Decides Home Secretary.

Mrs Andrew Marr praises the Home Secretary:

At a time when it's fashionable to decry our politics as being unrepresentative, out of touch or even corrupt, let's stop for a moment to praise the fact that sometimes the system works.
So what has Jacqui Smith done to demonstrate that she isn't unrepresentative and out of touch?:

I'm referring to the decision, announced to the Guardian by the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, to drop plans for directly elected police authorities.
Yes that's right, abandoning plans to make the police accountable to elected representatives just shows how representative the government are!

It is a pity as this was just about the only good idea that the Home Secretary has come up with. Electing police boards to run the local force would mean that the police had to respond to the voters rather than to Whitehall. The reasons given to support the u-turn are pathetic:
It was only when those who really understand the implications – the police themselves, and local authorities – became involved that opposition to the idea started to build.
So the opposition was led by bodies with a vested interest in the status quo. Next week after consulting with turkeys the government will decide to ban Christmas.
The Local Government Association pointed out that turnout in these elections was likely to be low, with the result that minority and extremist parties could flourish. Sir Jeremy Beecham, vice-chairman of the LGA warned that far-right groups could end up controlling police authorities, after exploiting the fear of crime.
They could in theory, but they are no more likely to win elections to policing boards than to local councils, where turnout is also very low but the BNP have only scant representation. In fact this isn't an argument against allowing the public to elect police boards, this is an argument against allowing the public to elect anyone. The threat of the minuscule and pathetic BNP is being hyped up to justify the centralisation of power and maintaining the current top down mode of government.

What would be the worst that could happen if extremist parties got representation on police boards anyway? The police have recently made the news for arresting an MP for receiving leaks and for the De Menesez inquest completely rejecting their account of the events that led to an innocent man's death so it is hard to see how extremists (who wouldn't win control in any case) would make things worse.

Part of the problem of being governed by a small and unrepresentative political class is that they really do believe that outside of their little cocoon the rest of the country is populated by halfwits and bigots who will end up imposing a Fourth Reich if they are allowed to vote on anything of any importance.

Update: Former councillor John Ward has a post up about the same topic.

Advertising Disguised As News.

On the ITV news this evening there was a report about the closure of Woolworths and the impending loss of jobs. This is a pretty depressing story and of tremendous importance to thousands of Woolworths employees. It is therefore extremely tacky to use the news report to plug the Christmas single by the latest winner of ITV's 'X-Factor' by explaining that it was one of the items being sold by the chain and then cutting to a clip of her murdering 'Hallelujah'.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Not A Fanatic.

Inayet Bunglawala complains in the Guardian about being slandered by the Daily Express. He has won a libel case against them and it is clear that the Express did not report his words accurately so that is fair enough. However the subtitle makes a more general complaint that he was unfairly portrayed as a 'fanatic'. This isn't libellous, this is a statement of the obvious, as his wiki page says:
In January 1993 Bunglawala wrote a letter to Private Eye, a satirical magazine, in which he called the blind Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman "courageous." After Abdel-Rahman's arrest on charges of masterminding the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York in July that year, Mr Bunglawala guessed that it was only because of his "calling on Muslims to fulfill their duty to Allah and to fight against oppression and oppressors everywhere". Five months before the September 11, 2001 attacks, Bunglawala also circulated writings of Osama bin Laden, whom he called a "freedom fighter", to hundreds of Muslims in Britain.[7]
Whilst his praise for Bin Laden was before the World Trade Center attack it was after Al Qaeda had carried out many other attacks including the bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania which left hundreds of people dead. This doesn't seem like the sort of stuff that a moderate would say.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What's Up Doc?

An NHS doctor has been convicted of terrorist offences for his role in the attempted bombings of London and Glasgow last year. The most notable aspect of the attacks was the ineptness of the execution, in fact the only victim of the attacks was another terrorist doctor who died in the Glasgow Airport assault after immolating himself.

I'm concerned that NHS recruitment has become so poor that people incapable of even driving a car into an airport can become doctors.

It Turned Out That Mr Stabby Couldn't Be Trusted With Knives.

The world's biggest fraudster (allegedly?) is George Madoff who appears to have run a $50 Billion pyramid* scheme. It is a mystery why anyone was surprised, the clue is in the name, George Madoff made off with the money.

These investors are the sort of people who were amazed when it turned out that Cruella De Vil was a villain.


* The word pyramid for some reason made me think of the old confectionary item the "Pyramint" for the first time in about 20 years. This inspired me to google it to see if they were still being made. They aren't but the Wikipedia page on the subject is very helpful noting that:
The Pyramint was a brand of Terry's chocolate popular in the 1980s. It was designed to resemble an Egyptian pyramid made, not out of large stones using forced labour, but of chocolate by a specially designed machine.

George Galloway Feeling The Pinch

With the Credit Crunch and the collapse in oil prices George Galloway is suffering more than most. Listening to TalkSport, the radio station where he works a few minutes ago his colleagues played a clip from his latest show, which I am assuming is completely in context, in which the cat impersonator declares:
"There's not much cash in handjobs"

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bad Ideas Still Being Imported.

Following the lead of the Americans, the British government is planning to prop up the car industry in this country*. This is a bad idea and one you would have imagined Britain would avoid given the ignominious history of British Leyland. There is no particular reason to favour car making over any other industry which is struggling in the recession but for some reason the automobile industry seems to have a totemic symbolic value that far exceeds its actual importance. Supporting the car industry makes about as much sense as supporting the retail industry in the wake of the closure of Woolworths.


* Yes we still have a car industry albeit foreign owned.

1000

This is my 1000th post so natuarally I want to make it something insightful, memorable and worthy of marking a blog milestone but why start now?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Who Said The Government Isn't Getting Tough On Immigration?

This is disgraceful:
On 15 November, Colour Sergeant Krishnabahadur Dura of the 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles was killed in action in Afghanistan.
.....
this Government thinks so little of C. Sgt Dura's sacrifice that their first instinct is to weild the full weight of the immigration system against his wife and children.
{Via James Higham}

Dope, Tobacco & Coherent Thinking

This Reason article on the growth of the nanny state in US municipalities confirms something which I have long suspected is the case, that very often a libertarian attitude towards illegal drugs is associated with an authoritarian attitude towards everything else. In fact the correlation between liberal laws on tobacco and liberal laws on illegal drugs is actually slightly negative (about -0.07).

Very few people or politicians adopt consistently libertarian or authoritarian principles, support for liberalising laws on drugs largely comes from those attracted to the counter culture attitude that the likes of marijuana exemplify. Equally support for allowing smoking in public places comes largely from those who view it as an established part of our culture rather than those who oppose state interference full stop.

Personally I think drugs probably should be legal and also oppose the increasing moves to outlaw smoking but principled libertarianism isn't the dominant outlook among advocates of either situation.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Polls Close.

I'm closing the Karen Matthews poll now, because it is really putting me off whenever I log on to my own site to see it. Anyway 40% of people think that she gets up the duff so frequently because she's something of a looker compared to her neighbours. 36% think that she gets her baby-daddies really drunk.

Lily & The Solar Powered Lorry.

Plane Stupid vandal Lily Kember is outraged that the newspapers have tagged their organisation as a bunch of trustafarian wankers, many of them came from poor families where their Daddy was poor, their Mummy was poor and even their servants were poor:
one bright spark at the Sun decided to savage me for the heinous crime of being educated at Godolphin and Latymer school. Of course, the journalist, Lynsey Haywood – who sounds pretty well-heeled to me – forgot to mention that I went there on a full scholarship, and that my dad drives trucks for a living.
Isn't a bit rich for an climate change protester to boast about her father driving trucks for a living? Perhaps some concerned eco warrior should do something about that.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Quote Of The Day.

From the Viz letters page:
In his public apology, Russell Brand said that all he's ever wanted to do was make people laugh. Okay, Russell, any time you're ready.

R. Tanner,
Hove

Because 'Progressive Thinking' Has Done So Much For Our Schools Already!

There are many reasons to be sceptical about Ed Balls and his proposals to revamp the primary school curriculum, but none of them are as damning as this claim by David Aaronovitch (or his sub editor:
The call for a new primary curriculum has met predictable opposition. But it is in a fine tradition of progressive thinking

Family Business.

Political nepotism is back in fashion, with Michael Martin is allegedly haggling with Labour to allow his son to succeed him as an MP. Tamsin Dunwoody tried this earlier in the year, across the Atlantic a Kennedy is being lined up to replace a Clinton as the senator from New York.

This is a shame as in general people who rise because of who they are rather than what they have done are less able. I'm trying to remember a quote by AJP Taylor to the effect that even the most successful European monarchs were only of the competence of a mediocre politician like Ramsay MacDonald. This might be overstating it but it contains a germ of truth.

What we really need is a system whereby the offspring of the political elite are shuffled off to somewhere that they cannot enjoy a political career. The House of Lords used to fulfill this function, as the prominent politicians became peers and their children succeeded them to the House of Lords from where it is very hard to become a top ranking politician. There are really only two potential cabinet positions open to Lords so the potential for dynastic rule is minimised. It is notable that the most prominent current dynastic scion in British politics is Hilary Benn, son of Tony Benn who renounced his peerage. Had he accepted his role as Viscount Stansgate Tony Benn would never have become a cabinet minister and there would be a good chance that Hilary would not have even been considered as an MP.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Prostitutes Exposed.

A Tennessee prostitute ring was recently busted by the police and the gallery of the lovely ladies involved is up here. Truly the punters of Tennessee are blessed but before you all try and hook up with them, I'm calling dibs on number 2.

New Poll.

The Shannon Matthews case has raised many questions, how could a mother treat her own daughter like that? How did she think she would get away with it? Why was she getting £20000 a year from the government?

Above all the question on everyone's lips is how did she persuade at least 5 different men to provide her with offspring?
(Apologies for the superfluous apostrophe in the poll)

Class War.

As Laban Tall notes the disruption of Stansted Airport by supposed environmental activists looks a lot like a bunch of spoilt brats deciding to wreck the holidays of the lower orders. Direct action often comes across as the petulant rage of a priviliged class (to borrow a phrase) outraged that their opinions of what must be done don't carry any more weight than those of their feudal inferiors in a modern democracy.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Sunday Round Up.

I'm just going to provide a round up of things worth looking at elsewhere which I haven't been able to link to in an actual post. This might become a weekly feature in which case it will be expanded somewhat or I might get very bored, in which case the concept will disappear into the memory hole never to reappear again.
  • I have added two new sites to my blogroll, 'They're Joking Aren't They' by North Northwester, who is mostly writing about Islam and Islamic extremism at the moment. Also added is the 'Expat Yank' an American living in the UK who writes about both British, American and other current evens.In other blog related news Blognor Regis is now visible to the great unwashed once again.
  • Standpoint magazine has an article about skewed British perceptions of the United States and vice versa.
  • EU Referendum has a transcript of a fantastic exchange between Czech president Vaclav Claus and a bunch of MEPs, including a hilarious exchange with a logically challenged Irish MEP by the name of Brian Crowley.
  • Shuggy's blog has a call for realism by liberal supporters of Obama.
  • Brett over at Harry's Place has a thoughtful post about why liberal's consistantly 'miscast' revolutions, by supporting revolutionaries on the basis of what they oppose without considering what they support. This isn't a trait restricted to liberals incidentally.
  • Pub Philosopher has a great piece on 'conspicuous compassion'.
  • Obnoxio the Clown has one of the best horse sex posts of the week.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Quote Of The Day

Thoedore Dalrymple wrote an article partly about the Shannon Matthews case earlier this year which is well worth reading in its entirety:

Karen Matthews, who received welfare payments of $40,000 a year, had borne seven children to five different men. She called two of her children with the same father “the twins,” thus transferring the meaning of “twin” from the relatively unusual biological occurrence of double birth to what she clearly thought the equally unusual social circumstance of full siblinghood.

..........

The reasons for Shannon’s abduction have not yet emerged, but again the Guardian managed to distract the reader’s attention from less than optimal family arrangements. Instead, it ran an upbeat story on the housing project where the Matthews family lived; that way, the obvious could be ignored rather than denied. The Sun, a tabloid newspaper whose readership is virtually entirely working-class, had described the project as “like Beirut—only worse.” But the Guardian, whose readership is largely middle-class and employed in the public sector, drew attention to the improvements that had taken place in the project, thanks to the local council’s having spent $8 million on it over the last three years—supplying traffic bollards shaped like penguins, for example. Before the improvements, one resident said, “We’d houses burgled, sheds burned, caravans blown up.” Now, only one house in 90 is robbed per year; and, thanks to the penguins, joy-riding by youths in stolen cars is presumably much reduced. The implication is clear: with more public spending of this kind everywhere in the country, administered by Guardian readers and their peers, everything will be all right. It won’t matter in the slightest if children either have no fathers, or different fathers every few years.

And The Winner Is....

The people who voted in my poll of the most dangerous terrorist threat concluded that radical Islamists were the most dangerous. The full results are as follows:

Which one of these poses the greatest terrorist threat?

Damian Green: 0
Iceland: 4
People who don't recycle: 4
Radical Islamists: 14
Walter Wolfgang: 3
In fairness I should probably admit that I voted for Iceland 3 times. Those Vikings haven't fooled me or our illustrious Prime Minister.

Bea-ing Ridiculous. (Updated)

If there is one characteristic that I particularly envy among professional columnists is their uncanny judge of character, honest. After the conviction of Karen Matthews for the abduction of her daughter Shannon it seems like a good time to revisit Bea Campbell's class war column on the subject from earlier this year:
Karen Matthews has acted appropriately throughout: she was waiting for Shannon at home; she contacted the police as soon as she had exhausted all the obvious locations.
Apart from with the bloke she gave her to.
And yet, our eye is drawn to her poverty, numbers of partners, cans of lager going into her household. Everything about Ms Matthews' life has been up for scrutiny.
This appears to have been quite astute.
Karen Matthews has been subjected to a Today programme interrogation that appeared to position the mother as the perpetrator: Sarah Montague asked her seven times about her lifestyle. Her patronising preoccupation was how many men there have been in her life, not her judgment about them. Has any other, apparently blameless mother been so sweetly assailed?
Sarah Montague 1, Bea Campbell 0.
{the McCann's} resources - money, looks, religion, organisation, focus (all a function of class) - were all mobilised to protect them and to obscure the question of culpability. It was the McCann's photo-opportunity with the Pope that eventually exposed the campaign to criticism as inappropriate, not to say unseemly.
Unseemly!?
No one thought Karen Matthews had abducted or killed her daughter - and yet she has been judged. Some commentators think they can say anything they like about this woman and even to her. She has spoken with reticent dignity, yet her class makes her available for blame.
Nope her obvious unsuitability as a parent appalled most people, who kept their silence because of the awful situation they believed that she was in.


Update: Most spectacular volte face ever? (Via Marcus at Harry's Place and Julia)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

"Not Necessarily Antisemitic"

few, if any, Pakistani militants have been known until now specifically to target Israelis. I say, Israelis rather than Jews because the single surviving terrorist noted that they chose Chabad House to avenge the suffering of the Palestinians. Therefore, the attack was anti-Israeli, though not necessarily antisemitic.
Richard Silverstein at Comment is Free doesn't think that targeting a Jewish Community Centre for a massacre is antisemitic.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Green Leaks.

About this whole Damian Green business, although it was clearly ludicrous and thuggish to arrest him for doing what shadow ministers have always done, it doesn't mean that what he was doing was proper. Some of the leaks that he received were legitimate matters of public interest, such as the illegal immigrants working at the Home Office but some were not, such as the list of Labour MPs who were going to rebel over the issues of 42 days detention.

It isn't unreasonable for ministers to have an expectation that they are able to discuss matters in private with civil servants without their deliberations being sent straight to the opposition. It should not be a criminal matter, so the arrests are the most important part of story. It's as if the police started arresting footballers who dive, on suspicion of fraud, it would clearly be an abuse of power but it wouldn't make divers heroes.

Normalising Deviancy.

I don't believe this claim for a moment:
About 1 in 10 children in the developed world is abused each year but official statistics indicate less than a tenth of those abused are investigated
This is a based on a study by the Lancet who as we all know never publish sensational inflated statistics. If there are over one and a half million abused children in Britain today then it would be horrifying. However as the article explains:

The definition of abuse was wide-ranging and included punching, hitting, beating, burning, rape, exposure to pornography as well as neglect and emotional abuse such as making a child feel worthless or unwanted.

Clearly punching, burning, raping and severe neglect are examples of child abuse (although I suspect 'hitting' means corporal punishment) but when you get into 'making a child feel worthless' then that could mean almost anything. A parent who snaps at a child to shut up might make the child feel worthless, but unless it is constant it is hardly abuse.

Is the reason they are defining child abuse so widely to make it appear as though we are all guilty and that real abusers are no worse than millions of normal people.


Update: More Lancet fun here.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Pirates: Environmental Heroes.

According to the Guardian, in an editorial about the pirate situation:

Shipping has become an almost invisible industry, the silent motor of global trade, but its consequences are not all benign. Big ships burn dirty fuel and are not subject to any form of carbon emissions regulation, and pump out polluted ballast water, soiling seas. Now the industry needs assistance. But its behaviour should change too.

How did they get from pirates to global warming? I have no idea.

The Children, Won't Someone Please Think Of The Childen!!!

Australia's government is planning web censorship:

The Rudd Government's plans to censor the internet in an attempt to protect children from inappropriate content and extreme and violent pornography has come in for some criticism.

The plan to impose mandatory filtering on Internet Service Providers has invoked the ire of a new generation of civil libertarians who regard any such move as a threat to their freedom and even some children's welfare groups say that mandatory filters, pointedly aimed at protecting children, are ineffective and a waste of money.

How can civil libertarians possible criticise this, after all they're only depriving people of their freedoms for the children.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Is There Anyone Who Isn't Getting A Bailout?

Okay I can understand why they bailed out the banks, I can sympathise with the motives of those who want to bail out the Automobile industry but this is going too far:
Pittsburgh Mayor Calls for Pirates Bailout
I don't think we should be encouraging these Somali sea bandits. In fact I didn't realise they ha been hit that hard by the credit crunch.

Credit Where Credit Is Due.

Is it me or is Harriet Harman acting as the voice of reason here? Seeing as she is always wrong I can only conclude that Damian Green is actually funneling confidential security to Bin Laden.


Update: Dear God, Ed Balls is being reasonable as well! Is the cabinet on drugs.

Update 2: Yaz borders on the edge of sensible too! This is all just uncanny. If Polly Toynbee says something sensible too then we have to conclude that aliens are taking over the bodies of prominent lefties.

Miserable Days.

Cold, dark Sundays in November must be just about the most depressing, energy sapping days of the year. I feel like a miserable Swede. So if anyone has anything happy or cheerful to say feel free to say so.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Put A Tiger In A Tank.

A post by Laban Tall on British politicians of all parties happily attending a Tamil Tigers shindig in London is a reminder of just how lax we ( or our political class) are about terrorists.

This isn't new, Britain used to be a safe haven for Islamist groups before the World Trade Center attacks and even now the government is quite keen on engaging with British Muslims through 'moderate' Islamic groups, which invariably turn out to only be moderate in comparison to Mullah Omar . We are quite ecumenical in which terrorist groups we tolerate, from the Sub-Continent alone we allow our politicians to:
  • Attend meetings set up by supporters of the Tamil Tigers.
  • Grant visas to members of a Hindu extremist organisation that is alleged to be behind a recent anti Christian pogrom in Orissa that left dozens dead.
  • Employ supporters of the Sikh separatist group that blew up an Air India flight in 1985 killing over 300 people (including 112 children).

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Is Opposition Allowed?

Gordon Brown is now growing into his Private Eye caricature as a Stalinist who views opposition and dissent as being forms of treason. Just consider some of the behaviour of the government in November so far:
This has all happened since the return of Peter Mandelson and more importantly Alistair Campbell to the government. Gordon Brown's psychological flaws have been discussed before but when he is in cahoots with Alistair Campbell whose mental health problems have been well documented and has a history of abusing office to try and discredit opponents of the government (David Kelly, Black Rod & Rose Addis spring to mind) then a worrying trend is evident. One paranoid man mught be able to curb his instincts, if surrounded by balanced individuals, but two together will egg each other on to ever greater depths of derangement.

Their own mental health is their private concern but the fact that they are at the helm of the country during a crisis is deeply disturbing.

The Oxygen Of Publicity.

The power of terrorists doesn't derive from military strength but, as the term suggests, from terror and fear that their attacks create. Terrorist attacks therefore need media coverage in order to be successful, and the blanket coverage of the Mumbai/Bombay attacks is unfortunately giving them a victory of sorts.

Without television as a force multiplier the events in India would just be a mob of war criminals launching attacks on civilians and then being routed when a real army shows up. Yet Television imprints images of carnage and chaos into the minds of millions of viewers worldwide, even though rationally the scale of the attacks is miniscule in global terms.

I realise that this isn't China and we cannot simply censor coverage of terrorist atrocities but the coverage should be more restrained so that even the slowest terrorists realise that they are wasting their time and their deaths won't even make the front page of the local paper.


PS. I have made this point before in 2006 and 2007.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ignorance + Malice = Political Correctness

I must admit I find it hard to keep up with whom the politically correct are directing their latest two minute hate at. Sure I understand that white heterosexual males are a long standing target, but who the fuck decided that cystic fibrosis sufferers were on the PC blacklist?:
The Carleton University Students' Association has voted to drop a cystic fibrosis charity as the beneficiary of its annual Shinearama fundraiser, supporting a motion that argued the disease is not "inclusive" enough.

Cystic fibrosis "has been recently revealed to only affect white people, and primarily men" said the motion read Monday night to student councillors, who voted almost unanimously in favour of it. The decision caused heated reaction and left at least one member of council calling for a new vote.

Whilst it goes without saying that refusing to fund raise for a disease based on the demographic profile of the victims would be obnoxious in any case, it is of course entirely untrue that cystic fibrosis is a condition that the white patriarchy are hogging all to themselves

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Biker Gangs & Crime.

The conviction of members of a biker gang "the Outlaws" over the murder of Hell's Angel Gerry Tobin is hard to understand. Are British motorbike gangs linked with organised crime as they are in some countries? I've never heard of British bikers being involved in that kind of thing and I had always assumed that they were just blokes who were into motorbikes. Yet it is hard to understand how a group of middle aged motor bike enthusiasts could decide to respond to a disagreement with another group of other enthusiasts by deciding to murder a random member of that group.

The Ratchet Effect.

The ratchet effect is the process whereby when left wing parties get into government they move the country to the left, but when right wing parties enter government they simply hold things steady and rarely move things rightwards.

Part of the reason is that the Tories are often wimps and because political insiders are often more centrist than their supporters. However I wonder if the current economic crisis demonstrates another reason why. If the Tories win the next election they will inherit an economy that has been utterly wrecked by the global recession and the monumental incompetence of Labour in office. There will be very little appetite to reform public services or to shrink the state in a serious manner. This was also true of incoming Conservative governments in 1950 and 1979.

In contrast when Labour took office in 1997 they took over an economy that had been reformed and was growing strongly and was in a very healthy state. The opportunity to reform anything from welfare to schools to healthcare was huge.

We're Doomed.

So let me get this straight if the government's forecasts about the economy are right then the national debt will amount to around £20000 per household. However the government's forecasts are almost certainly insanely optimistic.

The national debt is going to be with us for at least 7 or 8 years based on the best estimates but really we could be paying this off for a generation. We are screwed.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

How Journalism Works.

The Daily Telegraph has a story headlined:
Reptiles now more popular pets than dogs
Judging from personal experience this doesn't seem likely, I know a lot of dog owners but very few reptile owners. There don't seem to be many products aimed at reptile owners available in supermarkets as there are for dogs. So what is the Telegraph basing their report on:
Calculations by the British Federation of Herpetologists (BFH).....
A herpetologist is someone who studies Amphibians & Reptiles. The BFH appears to have a very small web presence, and most of their appearances are in the capacity of promoting reptiles as pets, so I'm guessing that they are an industry group who want to promote the sale of reptiles as pets.

No newspaper will simply print a story saying "Reptiles Make Great Pets" because that isn't news, but if you hire a PR agency and they publicise a "study" which makes a startling and newsworthy claim the newspapers will lap it up and the reptile sellers will be quoted on what great pets they make. After all rehashing press releases is easier than actually reporting.

With this in mind I'm hoping I can get this published in the newspaper next week:
A study recently commissioned by the Blogging Research Council has revealed that regular readers of Unenlightened Commentary are now more numerous than readers of the Sun and the Bible, when asked to comment on why this is the president of the council, Ross F, speculated that it might be because Unenlightend Commentary had been shown to cure AIDs as well as improving readers' sex lives and granting them the ability to speak Mandarin. He added that prominent readers such as the Dalai Lama and Paris Hilton had also increased the blog's profile.

He didn't provide any evidence for any of his claims, and the BRC doesn't appear to actually exist, but he did save us the burden of actually reporting as well as providing a feeble excuse to print a picture of a scantily clad female celebrity in the news section.
Well I've provided as much evidence for my claims as the British Federation of Herpetologists has.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Good News.

It appears that "Tragic Life Stories" are on their way out!

Who Knew?

Surprisingly it turns out that the leaders of an murderous and insular cult aren't too keen on people different from themselves and might even be a bit racist. The mass murder of people from different ethnic groups was in retrospect something of a clue.

The strange thing is that this has shocked some 'experts', Zaheri has previously said the same kind of things before about Colin Powell and Condaleeza Rice. He is the elderly relative of the Islamist movement who can't be stopped from blurting out racial epithats much to the embarrassment of the more progressive minded psychopaths. Anyway whose default assumption is that Al Qaeda were an anti-racist group?


* Osama Bin Laden has casually referred to blacks in general as 'slaves'.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Yo Ho Ho.

Pirates; International menace or misunderstood community activists? It's a tough call so let's look the experts to resolve this age old question:

Another sum is less frequently mentioned: the estimated $300m of fish poached in Somali waters annually by trawlers hailing from nations as far away as Taiwan - or France and Spain, for that matter. Seen from this perspective, it is hardly surprising that some pirate groups see themselves as defenders of Somali fishermen, giving their groups names such as National Volunteer Coast Guard of Somalia, or Somali Marines.
Well shiver my timbers! Piracy is actually a form of fair trade activism. Quite how oil tankers are inpinging upon Somali fish stocks isn't 199% clear to me but I'm not a details person.

<via>

Compare & Contrast.

The unrestrained glee with which the media is reporting the leaking of the BNP membership list is interesting. I personally am uncomfortable with the leak as everyone has a right to keep their political views private. The justification appears to be that they deserve it and that people have a right to know whether someone is a supporter of a racist party.

This may be true, but why is that the same media outlets that sympathise with the outing of BNP members are often those the most voraciously opposed to the naming of convicted sex offenders?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mystic Minister

Last month I wrote to the government's science minister, Lord Drayson, to tell him that the off the cuff remarks he was going to make this weekend about being able to predict the future were clearly nonsense. Now that the remarks have taken place, I still hold to this view.

He isn't actually claiming to be psychic but merely latching on the ideas in Malcolm Gladwell's Blink*, however if Gordon Brown had a sense of humour he might emulate Kelvin Mackenzie who famously informed the Sun's resident astrologer of his redundancy in a letter that began "As you will already know....".


* I haven't read Blink, but am I correct in thinking that the basic idea is that the subconscious mind can ofter assemble information and reach a decision before we are conscious of it?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Downside Of Juries: Jurors.

The big problem with trial by one's peers is that frequently those peers are gibbering imbeciles. Example one:

A rape victim has hit out at the law after the man accused of attacking her was cleared because he was sleepwalking.

Jane McKenna, 33, was asleep at home when a friend's husband, who had been a guest at a barbecue, walked into the bedroom and started having sex with her.

Jason Jeal, a 37-year-old roofer with no medical history of sleepwalking, admitted sex had taken place. But he was cleared of rape after he insisted he had been asleep and had no idea what he was doing.
Uh huh. This defence could clear anyone of anything. The only evidence that he was sleepwalking is that he claims not to remember what he was doing, this is also a symptom of being drunk.
Speaking outside his home in Portsmouth, the former member of Portchester Cricket Club said: 'I did not use sleepwalking in my defence as I did not have any doctor's evidence or anything to back that up,' he said. 'With me, sleepwalking normally comes on through drink. People have told me I've done it before.'
So he exhibits symptoms similar to being drunk after drinking and concludes he must have been sleepwalking, and a jury buys that?

{via}

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Evolution In Practice.

Who knew that there is an 'epidemic'* of deaths resulting from "car surfing"? And aren't car manufacturers at fault for not including warnings that standing atop a moving vehicle might be perilous? Hopefully the new Car Czar can tackle this worrying trend.



* 'Epidemic' is over egging it of course.

The 1970s Have Made A Comeback!

This 1970s revival is in full swing now. Following on from the success of 'Life on Mars' about a modern policeman who wakes up to find himself in 1973, comes the tale of a 1970s politician who has found himself in 2008- 'The Obama Presidency".

The US President Elect is supposed to be new, exciting, fresh, modern, 21st century etc. So why do his ideas appear to come straight from the 1970s? The car makers bailout he is proposing is reminiscent of British Leyland. Obama is shaping up to be the American Stephen Byers.

American car manufacturing isn't actually in a bad way, it's just that it is the foreign companies whose inward investment has created thousands of jobs in the industry who are benefiting, for reasons that Charles Krauthammer sums up here:
Saving Detroit means saving it from bankruptcy. As we have seen with the airlines, bankruptcy can allow operations to continue while helping to shed fatally unsupportable obligations. For Detroit, this means release from ruinous wage deals with their astronomical benefits (the hourly cost of a Big Three worker: $73; of an American worker for Toyota: $48), massive pension obligations and unworkable work rules such as "job banks," a euphemism for paying vast numbers of employees not to work.
So if automobile manufacturing is going perfectly well in states without the employment restrictions that Michigan imposes on businesses then surely the sensible thing to do would be to emulate those states. However the Unions are big Democratic party donors and Michigan is a large swing state so bugger what is right.

On the plus side we should all have a laugh when the new eco-friendly models the politicians are going to make Ford, GM and Chrysler produce are unveiled.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Baby P.

Iain Duncan Smith writing about the Baby P case claims:
A recent US study found that children living with a non-biological adult are 50 times more likely to die from afflicted injuries than those living with their biological parents.
This seems extraordinary. Whilst I was aware that children are at greater risk from step parents than biological ones it is hard to believe that it is on this scale. A lot of child abuse could be prevented simply by discouraging some groups of people from becoming parents, particularly welfare cases who have never had a job and move from one unstable relationship to another.

Yesterday I speculated as to whether the reason the parents weren't being named was because more children were involved, sadly this is the case. Baby P has 4 siblings (or half siblings). I would hope that they are being adopted by a family that has nothing to do with the mother.

Meanwhile the Sun has a report about Haringey's Social Services department which is worth reading:

Baby P’s evil mum was backed by the council’s staff after she gave birth to a girl in March while on remand in jail and demanded access to the tot.

Fearful cops refused — only to be told by one social worker: “She has a human right to see the child. We need to let her bond.”
Words fail me! These aren't the kind of mistakes that could be eliminated with more training or better procedures, it should be patently obvious that you do not give someone suspected of torturing a baby to death access to another baby.

The Independent reports on a whistle blower who alerted ministers to the failings of Haringey over a year ago.


Update: Regarding IDS's point about the relative dangers of biological parents and a succession of step parents, it is an important point to make because some commentators group the two together and give the impression that it is the nuclear family is dangerous, like Mary Riddell in the Telegraph who writes:

In the popular myth, paedophiles and abductors lurk at every corner. In reality, there never was a golden age of childhood. The demons threatening the young are not evil outsiders but, most often, the fathers and the mothers brought up in dysfunctional families and wreaking the destruction they suffered on their own children.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Will Get Fooled Again.

The news that the "Sarah Palin didn't know Africa was a continent" story turns out to have been a hoax, and not a particularly elaborate one at that is quite funny. The great thing about the story is that all those who repeated it as though it were plausible were trying to make a point about extreme stupidity and in their own special way they have!

The Wicker Man Was Not A Documentary.

It appears that contary to claims made by Jersey's police force and the media, the people of Jersey do not routinely sacrifice children to whatever god those bloodthirsty heathens have worshipped since time immemorial.

I've been sceptical of the wild claims for a while, particularly when the 'skull fragment was found to be a coconut shell, but didn't want to say anything in case I was wrong and ended up making light of real abuse. Others have been openly sceptical for a while. As with the infamous Orkney "Satanic Abuse" case there seems to be an irresistable urge to believe that seemingly idyllic but remote communities are hiding dark secrets.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Despicable Gordon Brown.

I used to think that Gordon Brown's uselessness as PM was purely a professional failing and that he probably was a perfectly decent human being. After his behaviour in the House of Commons today over the death of "Baby P" it is no longer possible to believe that. The man is a scumbag and if the Labour Party had any sense of decency let alone self preservation they would not merely depose him as PM but expel him from the party and tell him to never blacken their doors again.

Must Remember To Include A Title.

This is serious:

TalkSport presenter Jon Gaunt has been suspended by the UTV-owned station after he called a London councillor a "Nazi" during a live debate.

It seems harsh, and I agree with Jon Gaunt on the issue he was discussing, a London council's ban on letting children be adopted by smokers, but if he wanted to insult the Nazis he should have used a less offensive comparison.

Biggest News Ever!

The new cast of I'm A Celebrity..... has been announced. Norman the local registered sex offender and something of a local celebrity in these parts had turned down an invitation to appear on the show because he thought it would damage his image so the producers have gone down further on the fame ladder such as footballers' girlfriends:
“I’m a dare devil and I’m very sociable and very social. I think at the moment the public’s perception of me is quite moody and quite sporty as well.”
No, the public doesn't have any perception of you and two weeks after the show is over that will be the case still.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Interlektules Rool OK!

I blogged a couple of months ago on the tendency of liberals to believe that their favoured political candidates are intellectual giants and their opponents are stupid. Thomas Sowell has an article today on that very subject:

Among the many wonders to be expected from an Obama administration, if Nicholas D. Kristof of the New York Times is to be believed, is ending "the anti-intellectualism that has long been a strain in American life."

He cited Adlai Stevenson, the suave and debonair governor of Illinois, who twice ran for president against Eisenhower in the 1950s, as an example of an intellectual in politics.

Intellectuals, according to Mr. Kristof, are people who are "interested in ideas and comfortable with complexity," people who "read the classics."

.....

Historian Michael Beschloss, among others, has noted that Stevenson "could go quite happily for months or years without picking up a book." But Stevenson had the airs of an intellectual -- the form, rather than the substance.

What is more telling, form was enough to impress the intellectuals, not only then but even now, years after the facts have been revealed, though apparently not to Mr. Kristof.

That is one of many reasons why intellectuals are not taken as seriously by others as they take themselves.

Stevenson is not the only example of an empty headed liberal being hailed as deep thinkers, John Kerry and Joe Biden are more recent examples of this type. A couple of weeks ago on another blog I gave my opinion that the 3 best presidents of 20th century were Coolidge, Truman and Reagan. All three of them were dismissed as amiable dunces, the New York Times backed their opponents each time, yet Reagan's intellect can be seen clearly by looking up any of his self penned speeches on YouTube and his long struggle to advance what were often unpopular ideas and Sowell says of Coolidge and Truman:
President Harry Truman, whom no one thought of as an intellectual, was a voracious reader of heavyweight stuff like Thucydides and read Cicero in the original Latin. When Chief Justice Carl Vinson quoted in Latin, Truman was able to correct him.

Yet intellectuals tended to think of the unpretentious and plain-spoken Truman as little more than a country bumpkin.

Similarly, no one ever thought of President Calvin Coolidge as an intellectual. Yet Coolidge also read the classics in the White House. He read both Latin and Greek, and read Dante in the original Italian, since he spoke several languages. It was said that the taciturn Coolidge could be silent in five different languages.

So whilst intelligence is a valuable commodity in a leader, intellectualism is not and most pundits have a demonstrable inability to distinguish the two. The easiest way to convince people that you're smart is to agree with them so politicians whose beliefs reflect the prejudices of journalists can easily be regarded as latter day Einstein's by the press.

Lessons Will Be Learned (part 3655)

It has been said of the world's pledge of "never again" after the holocaust, instead of meaning that we would never again allow genocide to occur again it actually meant that we would never again allow genocide against the Jews in 1940s Germany to happen again. Our social services work in a similar way, and when they said a case like the Victoria Climbie murder would never happen again, they actually meant that no little girl called Victoria Climbie would ever be murdered again.

Everytime the Social Services screw up the we are always told that "lessons will be learned", even if the failings didn't really require 'lessons' as much as basic common sense. Earlier this year Victoria Climbie's mother said that the lessons have not been learned and it now appears that she was right.

It isn't as if the social services are usually reticent about separating children from their legal guardians so how is that when a child is clearly being violently abused they do nothing?

Update: Does the fact that the media aren't naming the mother and stepfather suggest that there is another minor involved here?

"Extremely Seriously".

Tony Blair had to be rushed on to his plane at an Israeli airport after one of his British bodyguards accidentally fired his gun causing a security scare.
.....

Accidental firings are taken extremely seriously in Israel and its Airports Authority has launched an inquiry.

Is there anywhere that accidental firings aren't taken too seriously? It's not as if you let of a couple of rounds at Stanstead they let you laugh it off.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Terrorists Criticised, Guardianistas Offended.

No time to blog today, so I'll just link to an article by the Guardian's "Readers Editor" denouncing as an unperson David Cox, who upset Guardian readers by mocking the recent Bobby Sands hagiography in a movie review.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Quote Of The Day.

Gordon Brown has a risible article, trying to attach himself to the Obama bandwagon, in the Guardian. The readers aren't impressed, as one says:

I feel privileged to be able to read so many openly abusive comments before they are removed.

Update: I've spotted an even better comment:

Thank you, Gordon, for this inspiring epistle. Now I understand.

People looking for a UK version of the President-elect's spine-tingling rhetoric, spirit of openness and sense of generational change should vote for you.

Can we have five more years of Gordon in 10 Downing Street? Yes we can!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Joining The Dots.

Hazel Blears is unhappy about bloggers.

But she added: "Unless and until political blogging 'adds value' to our political culture, by allowing new and disparate voices, ideas and legitimate protest and challenge, and until the mainstream media reports politics in a calmer, more responsible manner, it will continue to fuel a culture of cynicism and pessimism."
The rather Orwellian talk about "legitimate protest" and "allowing" new voices is dealt with elsewhere. I want to deal with the culture of cynicism aspect. Blaming bloggers or the media for public cynicism about politicians is like blaming wet pavements for rain, if politicians treat people like idiots and exult in tricking the general public then they cannot be blamed for being cynical. Take Blears herself, how else can we look at someone who pulls a stunt like this?

Hazel Blears was forced to defend herself against charges of hypocrisy yesterday after she joined a protest against the proposed closure of a maternity unit in her constituency.
Admiration perhaps? She isn't the only Labour cabinet minister to have joined protests against their own government's decisions.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Small War In Mexico, Many Dead.

One topic that never came up in the US election was the drug war that is raging between the Mexican government and the cartels. This has been escalating for a few years now and thousands of people have been killed yet it gets little attention. Just to put the carnage in context the annual death toll exceeds all the killings that occurred during Northern Ireland's 'troubles' over a 30 year period. There is a real danger though that the war could spill over into the United States especially as the cartels have put American citizens including police officers, on their hit lists.

On the day of the election Mexico's 37 year old Interior minister, responsible for fighting the cartels and likely to be the country's next president, was killed in a plane crash, which may just be an accident but you have to wonder.

This situation could be one of the big issues of the next few years, partly because Mexico is an important large country in its own right and partly because it has a rather porous border with the USA and the violence could easily spill over into the South-Western states. It could make border controls and the "War on Drugs" important issues again.

Passive Smoking Worse Than Being In Care Says Council.

Whilst smoking is a bad habit and should be discouraged this is ridiculous:

Smokers in a north-east London borough will not be able to foster children from January 2010 - unless there are "exceptional circumstances".

If a child is in care then that is a pretty exceptional circumstance all by itself. If there were a surplus of foster carers then the policy might be justified as a way of filtering the candidates, but according to everything I have heard there is in fact a shortage. The justification for the ban is that most evidence suggests that various risk factors correlate with being in a smoking environment and this is true. However there are also strong correlations between poor life outcomes and being in care. and it seems implausible that children raised in households with smokers do worse than those raised in care homes. So the reasoning behind the ban demonstrates an inability to quantify risk.

Quote Of The Day.

John Derbyshire in NRO's Corner:

I'm thinking of another election 29½ years ago, when Margaret Thatcher swept into power in the U.K. As I recall, there was no great fuss one way or the other about her being the first female Prime Minister. Those of us who supported her just knew she had the right stuff, and so she did.

If the first female Prime Minister had been someone lesser, especially someone from out in left field — Barbara Castle, say — that likely would have been a disaster, and a great many people would have concluded that electing a woman Prime Minister had been a really bad idea.

It is of course a great thing that we are (it seems pretty certain) electing a black President. It's just a crying shame it had to be this shallow, empty man, who has never shown a flicker of interest in wealth creation, whose head is stuffed with all the vapid nostrums of 1980s student leftism, and who seems — putting the most charitable construction on it — not to mind the brazenly thuggish tactics of his supporters.

I'd gladly join in the cheering and self-congratulation of our nation's first black president, if it were a person of the caliber of Margaret Thatcher. This guy is just Jimmy Carter lite. Way lite — ol' Jimbo had at least run a business and served in the military.

I suppose I should try and find something less depressing to write about.

Bollocks.

There have been developments in the election that are not necessarily to our advantage.


Update: The single most disturbing image of the night was the one conjured up in my mind when pollster Bob Worcester attributed Obama's win in Ohio to the fact that Hillary had been "Beating it out" for Obama all over Ohio.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Thought For The Day.

No food item has a more unappetising name than "Digestive Biscuits". Who originally thought that it would be a good idea to promote a biscuit by reminding people of the digestive process?

Join The Herd Of Free Thinkers!

Senator McCain is clearly the best candidate to any genuine conservative and come to that any serious minded moderate, with a track record of integrity and competence going back decades which stands in comparison to his opponent's wafer thin resume and extreme political stances when not running for election.

However as a bandwagon jumper it is important to endorse the candidate who is likely to win not the one who is likely to govern best, because otherwise you're like totally out of touch with the zeitgeist. However such naked opportunism is unseemly so ought to be clothed with a fig leaf of intellectual respectability. This can be done easily enough by agonising over trivial or even imaginary failings of the likely losing candidate whilst ignoring the actual failings of the likely victor.

Therefore I am endorsing Barack Obama. Although John McCain is closer to my position on Taxes, regulation, foreign policy, defence, judges, trade and every major issue I can think of I just feel I can't bring myself to vote for a candidate who [insert bullshit here]. Also frankly I've been shocked at how dirty McCain's campaign has been, shortly after the Obama campaign sent out an email accusing his running mate of being a Nazi, John McCain plumbed depths previously unimagined by suggesting that it was possible that Senator Obama's economic plan wasn't very good.

Hooray, I am now free to join the herd of free thinking "Obamacons".

My Prediction.




Plus the Democrats to pick up 6 Senate seats.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Unlikely Statistic Of The Week.

Teenagers who watch Sex in the City [sic], Friends and other TV shows featuring sex scenes and discussions of sex are far more likely to get pregnant or get someone else pregnant than their peers
Ok I'm just about prepared to accept that teenage girls who watch Sex & the City are more likely to get pregnant. However it seems unlikely that teenage boys who watch it are more likely to get someone pregnant. Gay sex does not result in pregnancy.

Dennis MacShameless.

Just how shameless is the hyper partisan* New Labour MP Denis MacShane? This shameless:
The Tories chez nous are now the party of the super-wealthy as the millionaires' frontbench presided over by Oligarch Osborne and super-rich Cameron demonstrate.

I'm sure I remember that there was some other politician on board the yacht with George Osborne and the oligarch but surely MacShane would have mentioned it if one of his close political allies was on board too.


* MacShane is generally despised on the left as a Blairite ultra, so he isn't a far left figure. It's strange how the most relentlessly (and dishonestly) partisan figures in politics are often the relative centrists rather than the hard liners.

A Transformational Figure.

Okay after the last post you will want a serious post on the most pressing issue of the day. I can't help but be impressed with a black man who has challenged to win in a field traditionally dominated by white men. Yet he doesn't compete as the "black guy" instead he embodies a post racial narrative where the colour of his skin neither defines a man's identity nor imposes limits on what he can accomplish.

The calm and composure with which he has kept the lead even when his rivals looked like gaining on him has truly been impressive. Some say he's too young to win but in that case why couldn't his more experienced rivals exploit his naivete? Some say it is because he is backed with more money, but why did the power brokers trust him with their investments?


So congratulations Lewis Hamilton on a well deserved championship!

The Election Everyone's Talking About!

So we reach the end game of the 2008 election and interest has never been higher. It some ways the candidate of "change" has proved irresistable and appears all but unstoppable. The stark contrast between youth and experience, left and right is making it all the more compelling.

The UK's interest in foreign elections is generally limited but this isn't the case here, perhaps because it in another english speaking country.



It is time to make a prediction though, I think the National Party will win this week's New Zealand election.

McNumpties.

Donald Trump is a ludicrous man in a wig. That said he is also filthy rich and presumably knows a bit about making money. Which is why it seems extraordinary that he has had to fight tooth and nail for the privilege of being allowed to invest £1 Billion to build a Scottish golf complex. When face with a choice between a guarenteed £1 Billion and the prospect of tourism for decades to come on one hand and a possibility that some sand dunes might be disturbedon the other they initially chose to protect the dunes!

This demonstrates the deleterious effects of letting politicians and pressure groups decide on investment priorities when they have nothing personally at stake in the investment.

Not As Good As It Used To Be.

This blog's new wikio ranking is 118, down from 74 last month. Damn you fickle readers!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Straw Clutching.

Is it possible that McCain could still win the presidency? Almost certainly not but why not delude myself with the possibility for three more days? Political Betting has a post wondering about the reliability of American pollsters:
Given that the lat two Presidential elections have seen very close races, I would posit that ‘Independents’ includes more people that voted for Bush than for Kerry (even allowing for turnout differentials - Independents are also more likely to vote in many states). The fall in percentage of registered Republicans in the last two years, and the growth in the number of Independents smacks of what we would call ‘Shy Tory Syndrome’ - not wanting to affiliate with the party, but not necessarily reconciled to becoming Democrats, or voting for the Democratic Party. My concern would be that if the ‘Independents’ being polled and giving a slight lead to Obama are largely Dem-leaners (the eagerness of Democrats to answer questions in the same way that Labour voters are over-polled in the UK), that the whole 24% of Independents are being miscast.
It sounds plausible and I want to believe it but it is probably best not to get one's hopes up. If it is true I will be spending Wednesday engaging in unseemly gloating at various left wing sites. Although if the elections goes as expected they are more than welcome to come here to gloat.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Witch Watch.

Petitions calling for the pardon of those executed in the UK's witch trials are being handed to the UK and Scottish governments.

About 400 people in England and 2,000 in Scotland were executed following accusations of witchcraft in the 16th and 17th centuries
Obviously as there are no such thing as witches these people were innocent. They were usually just the local medieval equivalents of Mystic Meg or Gillian McKeith so they were kind of asking for it.

Pardoning people 500 years on seems like a waste of time perhaps it would be better if instead we learnt from the mistakes of that era and could rid of legal processes that are designed so that it is impossible to clear one's name.