Friday, February 29, 2008

Quote Of The Day.

The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto explains Barack Obama's policy on Iraq:

So let's see if we have this straight. Al Qaeda in Iraq isn't worth fighting because it wouldn't be there if it weren't for Bush and McCain. Obama is going to pull all U.S. troops out of Iraq to go fight in Afghanistan and Pakistan, although he will send them back to Iraq if al Qaeda are there, even though he now wants to withdraw notwithstanding al Qaeda's presence.

Yes, we can!

Thursday, February 28, 2008


This blog was the first outlet to pin the blame for yesterday's earthquake on global warming, the genius's at GMTV appear to agree with me.

Calamity Clegg.

Still one thing to be said for David Cameron is that he isn't Nick Clegg who has been behaving like a weasel over the EU not-a-constitution-honest treaty. After barely two months in the job he has put his MPs in the position whereby if they fulfill the commitments they made in their own manifesto they will be punished. Sticking with the Ming era policy of demanding a referendum on whether we are in or out of Europe instead of a referendum on the actual treaty itself isn't just a betrayal of their own manifesto but is politically stupid.

It's one thing for the government to break their promise over a referendum because the consequences for them of losing a referendum are worse than reconfirming that they're liars, but for an opposition party that doesn't hold the balance of power it is simply admitting that they are fraudsters without gaining any benefit in kind. Whilst being eurofanatics the Liberal Democrats don't want actually want a vote they would lose nothing by pretending that they are democrats. If anything by sending the entire parliamentary party to flounce out of the Commons after Ed Davey beclowned himself, Nick Clegg has taken the spotlight away from the government's own shortcomings and highlighted his own.

. Propping up an unpopular government in return for nothing shows the kind of political acumen that makes Lord Sutch look like Karl Rove.

It isn't even a question of whether a referendum is right or wrong, but whether it is okay to promise to support one and then ditch the idea after the election.

Did He Just Say That?

It's always cringe inducing when politicians talk about how down wiv da kidz they are by explaining how much they like pop music. Gordon 'Arctic Monkeys' Brown was pretty embarrassing but David Cameron manages to surpass even that moment:
Take Mr Cameron’s formative musical years, which could come from any self-respecting leftie’s record collection: ‘“Going Underground”, “Eton Rifles” — inevitably, I was one — in the corps — it meant a lot, some of those early Jam albums we used to listen to,'

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Why American Liberalism Has Been Losing Since 1968.

The godfather of the American conservative movement, William Buckley has died. One of his most famous television appearances was at the 1968 Democratic convention in a debate with Gore Vidal. Looking at the clip four decades on it obvious why American conservatism has fared so much better than liberalism since then. The clip itself is of poor quality but is understandable.

Vidal is incapable of constructing coherent argument and thinks that sneering and calling his opponents Nazis demonstrates his intellectual sophistication*, whilst Buckley argues the actual points. Since 1968 the Democrats have been trying to find a balance between representing their base, exemplified in buffoons like Vidal who look down on most of their compatriots whilst simultaneously reaching out to 'middle America'. In the ten elections since that exchange only Bill Clinton has been able to square that circle (Carter won office but was found out pretty quickly).

* As the satirist Craig Brown has said, he first realised that Vidal wasn't the genius he pretended to be when he heard him on the radio discussing the British intelligence services "M-fifteen" and "m-sixteen".


Either there has just been a small earthquake in the East Midlands or my house has very dodgy foundations. I blame global warming.

Update: I see from the comments that it was a quake. It seems relatively large for a British one.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Micromanaging Britain.

The government has changed its policy once again on the issue of casinos. Having first announced a massive launch of Super Casinos, then reversed that idea and they have now announced that there will be 16 regional casinos. This seems like the worst of all worlds to me as the casinos won't be large or concentrated enough to attract tourism but will be readily available to encourage gambling.

The actual decision though is less important than how it was made, the Department of Culture decides that a fixed number of casinos will be built and then local authorities beg for the rights to host one in the deluded belief that they will endow their god forsaken towns with a Las Vegas stlye glamour. The decision making reeks of 1940s style central planning:

Casinos with up to 150 slot machines and prizes of up to £4,000 are expected for Leeds, Southampton, Great Yarmouth, Middlesbrough, Solihull, Hull, Milton Keynes and Newham in London.

Smaller sites are also expected for Somerset, Dumfries and Galloway, Scarborough, Wolverhampton, Swansea, Luton, Torbay and East Lidsey.

It is noticeable that none of the current world famous resorts which have used casinos to transform themselves into entertainment centres (Las Vegas, Sun City, Atlantic City, Macao or Aruba for instance) have followed the UK approach of government allocated regional gambling monopolies almost designed to stifle innovation and instead have come about by local governments introducing more relaxed entertainment laws than the rest of the country or region that they are and allowing a wide range of venues to compete for business. Is it likely that Andy Burnham, the culture secretary is a better judge of what is suitable for a community than those communities themselves?

This approach of Westminster taking decisions that simply should not be in the purview of National Government can also be seen in the fiasco over licensing laws, which has followed a similar pattern of the government's position changing on an annual basis. It seems quite obvious to me that there are some places where 24 hour drinking will cause a large increase in public disorder (Scotland for example) but equally there are other areas where a more relaxed approach is beneficial. Instead the government implements a one size fits all approach that doesn't account for local differences.

Most of the wealthiest countries on the planet that don't rely on oil revenues are either very small or highly decentralised which ensures that most decisions are taken taken by people close enough to see what the results are. It's fair to say that Mr Burnham or his successors won't be losing sleep if the casino in say Luton doesn't have the desired result a local council would be bothered. The over centralised nature of Britain isn't just a result of Labour policies, it is the path that governments of both parties have pursued at least since the end of World War II and neither party seems willing to change that path.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Free Market Route To A DNA Database.

The law on taking DNA samples means that at present the government get to keep records on everyone who is ever arrested regardless of whether they are ever charged or convicted of an offence. This is so obviously unjust that it is hard to see how it remains legal. Having said that it is clear that the DNA database is an incredibly useful tool for legitimate policing functions that it is clearly useful that a DNA database exists, although not as some rather authoritarian police officers are suggesting a universal and compulsory one. Simply abolishing it as is proposed here by the Libertarian Alliance is not going to happen and it isn't particularly desirable in any case, I want the police to have access to the DNA records of violent criminals.

So if forcibly taking DNA samples of innocent people is unjustifiable yet a large database is desirable then another means is going to be needed. Offering people a cash sum in return for them providing a DNA might be the solution, if a price of say £1000 was offered for a sample I'm sure the take up would be vast. The objection to this would be that criminals won't be stupid enough to take part, but actually criminals are generally quite stupid, in want of cash and poor at thinking through the consequences of their actions so this isn't a problem. Criminals themselves don;t even need to sign up as long as their close relatives do.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Quote Of The Day.

Watching Hillary Clinton's campaign implode is tremendous fun, it is enough to make me suspect that her supposed genius is rather overstated. PJ O'Rourke noted HRC's fundamental stupidity more than a decade ago:
Mrs Clinton seems to possess the highly developed, finely attuned stupidity usually found in the upper reaches of academia. Hear her on the subject of nurseries and pre-schools: "From what experts tell us, there is a link between the cost and the quality of care." Then there is her introduction to the chapter titled "Kids Don't Come with Instructions":

There I was, lying in my hospital bed, trying desperately to figure out how to breast feed... As I looked on in horror, Chelsea started to foam at the nose. I thought she was strangling or having convulsions. Frantically, I pushed every buzzer there was to push. A nurse appeared promptly. She assessed the situation calmly... Chelsea was taking in my milk, but because of the awkward way I held her, she was breathing it out of her nose!

The woman was holding her baby upside down.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Castro Myths.

Just one more for the time being. When discussing Cuba there are two kinds of people who annoy me, those who are outright apologists for the regime and those who acknowledge the lack of democracy but make various attempts to mitigate it in some way. The first type are generally recognised as fools and lowlifes so I won't spend any time on them. The second type need to be considered.

In fact the second type can be further subdivided into two types those who go for "Yes Castro has problems but...." who are basically trying to excuse tyranny and those who go for the "Cuba has accomplished many good things but what about..." approach which is made by well intentioned democratically minded people but is still too kind to the Maximum Leader.

There are three big myths about Castro that have to be confronted, that Cuba has made tremendous advances in health and education, that Castro's predecessor Batista was a US puppet who was only opposed by Castro and that the USA has spent the last half century trying to kill Fidel Castro and overthrow his regime.

Myth One, Cuba's fantastic record on health and education.

As the normally reliably left wing US economist Brad Delong points out Cuba's purported high standards of living is only good when you compare it to countries that were far poorer than Cuba fifty years ago, when Cuba is compared to countries that it was level with fifty years ago like Spain or Ireland its standards are dismal.

Before Castro came to power Cuba had the 13th best infant mortality figures in the world, today it ranks somewhere between 25 to 30 on that list. It invested a higher proportion of its wealth on education than any other country in Latin America. Cuba's health and education system have gone backwards relative to the rest of humanity under communist misrule.

Myth Two, Batista was a brutal US backed puppet and Castro was the only alternative.

Hint to leftists, the USA doesn't usually impose arms embargoes on client states! Furthermore it doesn't condemn regimes it supports for rigging elections. In reality the Batista was a populist thug whose supporters included the Cuban communist party. Furthermore the USA generally backed his legitimate democratic opponent Carlos Marquez-Sterling whom the US embassy believed had won the 1958 election. Cuba had a viable democratic alternative.

Myth Three, Cuba has been under seige from the USA for the last 50 years.

Nope, as part of the deal that ended the Cuban Missile Crisis the USA agreed not to overthrow Fidel Castro. The USA has not been a threat to Castro for about 45 years.

Update: Exiled Cuban academic Humerto Fontova demolishes some more myths of the Castro apologists here.


It's long been clear that the Guardian's Comment is Free site is largely populated by conspiracy nuts who believe that the neo-cons & zionists secretly control the world. I hadn't known until now that they are also the sort of people who believe that Mohammed Al Fayed is on to something when he talks about how Prince Phillip and MI-6 conspired to have Princess Diana bumped off.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Organic Vegetables & Dancing,

With the retirement of Fidel Castro it's time to consider the age old question, what is the best part about living under a bloodthirsty and repressive dictator? It could be the dancing as Craig David suggests:
"I had lots of misconceptions about it being a communist country and all that. It's true that they're not as privy as we are with inventions, food and so on. But they make up for it with incredible dancing."
Or it could be the organic gardening the BBC presenter Monty Don argues, as the Castro Solidarity Campaign puts it:
Monty Don, one of the main presenters of BBC television’s Gardeners World, had nothing but praise for Cuba’s organiponicos.

The gardening-guru filmed in Havana for his new series ‘Around the World in 80 Gardens’, recently aired on BBC2.

Speaking about Cuba’s example for an online interview this month, he said: “Climate change will force us to be far more radical about our food production….The organiponicos of Cuba are a positive, heartening solution.”
Incidentally Monty Don elsewhere demands that everyone start buying local produce in order to save the environment yet sees nothing wrong with flying himself around the world to look at plants!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I'm Baaaack.

Spending a week without internet access is a curious thing, it means having to experience things like sunlight, exercise and social interaction, so thank god that nightmare is now over! Normal blogging will now resume.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Tragic Life Stories

The trend that began in the 1990s of publishers signing up any writers who could tell write memoirs documenting their childhood abuse or other suffering has become ridiculous. I was in WH Smiths today and discovered that their book department has a whole bookcase devoted to the category of "Tragic Life Stories". Actually googling the phrase reveals that others have noticed this development too. You've got to feel sorry for all the budding authors whose parents neglected to molest them thus depriving them of a future career.

.My computer problems are still ongoing so blogging will continue to be sporadic until next week. Sorry to both my readers for that. This story of ongoing computer faults isn't tragic enough to land me a book deal though.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Two Quick Ones.

Still having trouble with my computer which keeps cutting me off abrup......

So I just want to highlight two stories today:

'How common is bugging in prisons?', asks the BBC. Prisons are infamous for it I'd have thought, all those men together day in, day out.

'Government accused of failing British Hindus' reports the Times. Well the government are failing everyone else so why would Hindus expect to be treated any differently?

Monday, February 04, 2008

Quote Of The Day.

Some baby boomer self indulgence at its finest by some bloke called Mohammed Cohen (talk about a confused identity!) here:
As a prisoner of war from 1967 until March 1973, McCain missed the American public's education about the war

On an unrelated note I need to take my home computer in to be repaired once Ive removed the huge quantities of porn highly classified documents from the hard drive, so posting will be scarce to non existent until the weekend.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Involuntary 'Suicide' Bombers.

There was a pair of suicide bombs in Iraq today that killed more than 65 people, one of the highest death tolls in recent months. What makes the attack particularly awful is the choice of human bombers:
Two mentally disabled women were strapped with explosives Friday and sent into busy Baghdad markets, where they were blown up by remote control, a top Iraqi government official said.
Horrific though it is the treatment of these two women is it does say something about the situation in Iraq that is by no means a bad thing. The supply of voluntary* bombers is diminishing. In Afghanistan the Taliban have long found it difficult to recruit suicide bombers and instead rely on tricking or coercing the mentally ill, the mentally disabled, drug addicts and young children into becoming bombs. This means that the bombs tend to take fewer lives as the carriers of the suicide belts have little enthusiasm about mass murder.

* Even the voluntary ones are brainwashed dupes usually.

Age & Leadership.

It looks almost certain that John McCain will be the Republican nominee for president in November. If he becomes president then he will be the oldest person to ever become President for the first time. The argument that McCain and his supporters make is that age is irrelevant. There are certainly successful older leaders such as West Germany's Konrad Adeneaur who was Chancellor until he was 87 and the leader of his party until he was 90 and is generally considered among the best leaders of continental Europe in the 20th century. Other examples of older leaders include Vajpayee of India, Gladstone, Reagan and Sharon.

All of the men on that list were extremely successful in power, but the last two- Sharon and Reagan illustrate the dangers. Poor health, Ariel Sharon was the best Israeli PM of my lifetime but when his health failed him the leadership vacuum was filled by the lackluster Ehud Olmert whose handling of the Lebanon war was inept. Likewise Reagan is one of the most successful Presidents of all time but there has been informed speculation that by the end of his second term he was may have been suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer's. Unlike Sharon his second in command, George H.W. Bush, was competent and would have been capable of papering over the cracks if that needed doing. That is probably the most important lesson when voting for old men, take a good look at the person most likely to succeed if the worst comes to the worst.

Mind you the Americans' understandable enthusiasm for shooting their Presidents means that there is almost a 10% chance that they will be assassinated no matter how healthy they are, so taking a good look at the potential Vice Presidents is pretty important in any case.