01/01/2004 - 02/01/2004
02/01/2004 - 03/01/2004
03/01/2004 - 04/01/2004
04/01/2004 - 05/01/2004
05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004
Friday, February 27, 2004
Take care of what you endorse
Here's a question for all those on the right crowing about the bugging row (this means you, Daily Mail):
Next time Gerry Adams or Martin McGuinness are in the USA and GCHQ sends a request to the NSA to monitor them, how do you think the NSA will react? Will the actions of the GCHQ traitor* make it more likely or less likely that the NSA liaison (particularly if they are from, say, Boston) will do as we request? And how would you react if said NSA liaison then leaked the request to the New York Times?
Thats what I thought.
* While the obnoxious Ms Gun's behaviour may not fit the textbook definition of Treason, I think it certainly constitutes it morally. She was motivated to break the Official Secrets Act by a loyalty to a foreign organisation (in this case the United Nations) which overcame her loyalty to her country. On that matter, I'm with Sir John Keegan in today's Torygraph:
The great Duke of Wellington, reflecting on his life, took a harsher view. Admitting that he had earned enough to be independent of "employment or office", he went on to explain why he felt the obligation of loyalty. Using a term learnt during his service in Mogul India, he explained: "I am nimukwallah. I have eaten the king's salt." A great deal of salt has been eaten in recent years by half-informed government servants, some of whom do not seem to feel any loyalty to their country at all.
Monday, February 23, 2004
An incoherent reply
Yesterday I linked to the Conservative Party's feedback form. A couple of days before that I used it to send in a brief note complaining about the grotesquely irresponsible proposed Defence Cuts. I got a reply today. It defies rational interpretation:
"First of all, I would assure that Mr Howard recognises the importance of maintaining a sound and credible defence policy - and especially at the current time when many of our troops are stationed in Iraq."Words. They're very cheap. Lets get onto the substance.
"More generally, he firmly believes that the crucial role of NATO in maintaining peace throughout most of Western Europe since 1945 needs to be emphasised. It is against this background that he is concerned about the various proposals to construct a European-based defence organisation that is likely to develop as a rival to NATO."Well, I too am suspicious of the proposed Euro-Army. But that's not what I complained about.
"Whilst the end of the Cold War has inevitably shifted debate away from superpower confrontations and more towards defeating international terrorism, it would be short-sighted to assume that defence expenditure can be easily cut. And, of course, our troops have every right to expect that the equipment that they use is effective."Oh good to see they agree with me. No explanation as to why the Party is now advocating those 'short sighted' defence cuts.
And thats it. A string of platitudes followed by a conclusion that fails to answer my original comments (which in the politest way possible were basically 'What the hell do you think you're playing at?'). It doesn't exactly inspire confidence.
What's the big deal about evolution?
One of the favourite and recurring sneers of the European left involves attacking those Americans who don't believe in the Theory of Evolution. Peter Cuthbertson is on top form taking on the latest incident of this:
"I'm a Darwinist, and I am about as sure as I can be of the validity of evolution. Further, as I noted last month, I think evolution has enormous cultural implications of which conservatives should more and more start to take notice. But I must confess to feeling none of the bile against believers in Adam and Eve, forbidden fruit and Eden. I do not think they are crazy or malign or even ignorant in a way distinct from, for example, those who do not understand photosynthesis.
Now I too am fully paid up on the Evolution front - heck I had to write essays about it in my finals at University - but I do not understand why this is taken to be such an important issue. As far as I can see someone's views on Evolution only become an issue if they are applying for a position that involves the teaching of Biology or Geology (and perhaps some of those subjects' practical applications). Otherwise it is completely irrelevant.
What is even more puzzling is the set of beliefs that seems to go hand in hand with this incredible condescension. I can understand a well grounded, commonsensical and sceptical thinker scoffing at the idea of a six day creation. But it's not grounded, commonsensical or sceptical thinkers who do scoff. It's the ones who believe that state schools are better now than forty years ago. It's the ones who think a slap on the wrist for crime works but prison doesn't. It's the ones who believe political bureaucrats are generally much better qualified to spend the money you earned than you are. It's the ones who think Britain will in a decade and a half have a climate like Siberia's. It's the ones who think fathers are superfluous to the raising of children. It's the ones who see in the United Nations and the European Union enlightened and progressive governace. Against sensible judgement and overwhelming evidence Oliver James and his fellow travellers hold to such ideas as if they were carried down as stone tablets from mount Sinai, yet they still feel fit to sneer their nostrils clear at those with a comparably credible view of the origin of species. Forgive me if I find that odd."
Sunday, February 22, 2004
Rumours of distant battle
Seems that its not just bloggers who aren't happy with the proposed Tory Defence Cuts. This Telegraph story refers to discontent in the Shadow Cabinet:
The Conservative leader has been told by several senior colleagues that they are particularly angry at proposed defence cuts of £1.5 billion that, they fear, could badly damage the party's standing in the Tory heartlands.and
Major General Peter Currie, a former Ministry of Defence chief of staff who has been advising Mr Soames, spoke out angrily last night.
Life may be about to get a bit difficult for Michael Howard over this. Good. This is a bad policy and it needs to be backed away from while it still can be. There is no harm in admitting a mistake was made. And a retreat can even be spun as a 'clarification' to minimise the damage done by the episode.
He said that he and Mr Soames had been assured by Mr Howard that defence finance would be ringfenced. The Tory leader now appeared to have gone back on his word. Mr Soames had been frozen out of Mr Howard's inner circle in the run-up to Mr Letwin's announcement last week.
"In real terms, a freeze is a savage cut," said Maj Gen Currie. "The inevitable impression now given is that the Conservative Party has abandoned defence as a priority - a cause traditionally associated with it.
"Defence may not be as hot a political potato as hospitals or schools, but this apparent shift in the political landscape will still be deeply disappointing. At a time when the Armed Forces continue to be so heavily committed, this is a chilling prospect."
Meanwhile, please follow this link to the Conservative Party website to pass on feedback about this dreadful idea to try to push them in the right direction. Otherwise we face an unpleasant choice on who to vote for at the next election. Commenter Alex says it best under an earlier post:
"Vote for the final destruction of our Constitution or vote for the ending of Britain as a serious player on the Global stage."
Saturday, February 21, 2004
Not just the BBC
Sky News is far far less biased than the BBC - or mabe jut far far more professional. Somethimes however, the same old media-elite prejudices show through. Last night they were running a poll on whether the Guantanamo traitors should be arrested on their repatriation to the UK. As it had pretty much all day, te poll was running at 70% in the 'yes' column - something which seemed to come as a surprise to the anchor who clearly lost her train of thought as she was reading out the result. As they do every day when reporting the polls they encouraged people to participate but this time as she invited viewers to phone in with their positions, whatever the actual words she was using, from her tone the subtext was clear:
"Oh you silly little people, don't you understand that's the wrong answer. Never mind, you still have time to get it right."
Thursday, February 19, 2004
Its been noted in the past that the British part of the (political) blogosphere is rather Oxford-heavy. Well, here's a blogger from the Other Place redressing the balance a bit.
Go read Plastic Gangster. Again, I fully agree.
In particular his point about the International Development budget is a vital one. If ID spending were repatriated from Brussels (or if we just created a parallel fund under our control) and directed it to our friends and nations or regions we were attempting to achieve something in it would help us immensely in other areas. (An effective and well-run aid budget would also be the right thing to do - far more moral than our present policy of shovelling money at problems and not really tracking whether it gets used properly).
Now, I know that we're just two blogs banging on about this, and I know the Defence vote is not huge, but I am amazed that no one at CCO has yet grasped that this is a serious problem for the credibility of the party.
I could do better
A few days ago I was watching Sky News and they were doing one of their chats with their US correspondent. It was in depth piece about the Kerry-Intern flap and its implications for the race. The reporter also touched on Kerry's war (and antiwar) record and last week's GWB-National Guard non-scandal. Then came a series of predictions, and nestled in among them was a gem:
(Paraphrasing) "...but the election campaign proper is not going to be about National Security, Iraq or the War on Terror..."To be clear, he was referring to the main phase of the election campaign in totality, not Kerry's specific strategy. With a straight face he was telling his viewers that this election will not involve National Security. At which point it was clear that his opinions were utterly worthless since he did not have a clue what he was talking about.
Whatever else is discussed there is no doubt that National Security will be one of the dominant issues in this election. Anyone who has been following US politics for the last few years knows that (there will be other issues certainly, but anyone who thinks that the Bush campaign will not play this one up should check themselves into detox forthwith).
This is more than a whinge about a particular reporter, because this problem is not limited to Sky News. If you read articles about US politics in the Telegaph or the Guardian and you have more than a passing interest in US affairs you will find yourself correcting the journalist on a regular basis. Sometimes it will be little things, sometimes major ones, and sometimes you'll have read this story two weeks earlier on Fox or the New York Times. Furthermore the feature-style pieces - covering a trend or an overlooked issue- tend to play to the prejudices of their readership back home. (A classic example would be sending the hack to the boondocks and have them write a sneer-piece about evangelical Christians or homeschoolers).
Now I'm unusual, in that a) my wife is American so I follow US politics as closely as British politics and b) I'm a political junkie anyway, but even just reading CNN or Fox for ten minutes every few days would give you more of an idea about what is happening in the US than reading the foreign pages of your broadsheet of choice. It therefore seems to me that there is increasingly little point in the British press operating bureaux in the US, because the web has opened up the US media to us instead. And visa versa. And in fact the same applies to the rest of the Anglosphere - indeed why stop there as there are English language dailies in most countries.
This then becomes the potential twin theme of the new-media age. Punditry will be universal but actual reporting will become more distributed, local (either geographically or by subject), and syndicated by hyperlink. That, combined with decentralised fact-checking should improve the quality too.
Tuesday, February 17, 2004
(Political) Spam Trolls
The latest technique of the lunatic left, as described at Clayton Cramer's blog, involves phoney e-mails and blog comments posts from lefties pretending to be disaffected conservatives running down President Bush. Apparently this is a crude attempt at demotivating Bush's base. The thing is, these comments are blatantly phoney to anyone who actually is a conservative:
A lot of email seems to be appearing lately claiming something like, they are a "Life Long Republican," and usually then goes on to note they are a big a big admirer or Rush Limbaugh or they voted for Bush.They remind me not of comments from truly irritated conservatives but instead of Nigerian spam mail or fake virus warnings. OK, so they aren't written in block capitals, but you have the same near miss on the language. Just as the well established e-mail hoaxes are almost but not quite grammatical, so these are almost but not quite authentic - "a big admirer of Rush Limbaugh" indeed. At risk of fueling Jonah Goldberg's bette noire - Conservatives in the Mist - it seems that Liberals are losing the ability to share a common political language with Conservatives.
Lets start a sweepstake on some 'close but no cigar' phrases we are likely to see if this practice continues. I'll start by nominating:
"I'm a big supporter of the 2nd Amendment, and even want to own Assault Weapons and all"
Monday, February 16, 2004
Colour me unimpressed
Damn, damn, damn. I'm not one of the Death Before Electability brigade. I can forgive ideological failures by the Conservative Party. I appreciate that you have to triangulate, and reach a consensus in order to win elections.
I'll lay it on the table.
I want out of the EU, I think that vile organisation is destroying Britain. I am unpersuadeable of its merits and even if you could convince me it had any I would not care, for in my opinion a little economic damage would be a price worth paying for the restoration of our freedom to write our own laws. That said, I can live with a Tory party that supports our being 'in' Europe, because I recognise that right now that argument can't be won.
I want to see the NHS privatised. Completely. Along the US model. It doesn't bother me though that the Tories advocate spending taxpayers money on it. I'm a realist. I know we can never be rid of the NHS.
"Tory Cuts" I hear you say. Damn right. I like hearing sob stories about "indispensible public servants" like Gypsy Outreach Co-ordinators, or Gender Studies lecturers being shown the door. You see, when I hear 'cut' I think, not of the poor overworked Recycling Assessor, desperately in need of the extra staff members, but instead I think of cuts in my taxes. Hurrah!
But (and you could tell that was coming couldn't you?), I do have a bottom line. Until today, I thought that, that bottom line was a pretty secure one. After all I could trust the Tories to behave responsibly on my top issue:
The small matter that, you know, we're AT WAR! And that in this time of war, Defence policy actually matters. So what is my bottom line? Well, there are two answers to that question.
1. What do I actually want?
Big increases (of the order of 30-40% in Defence expenditure). We are more likely to fight than during the Cold War, and we have more clout than we did in the Cold War. This isn't about "punching above our weight" (such a horribly defeatist phrase), this is about "punching at our weight".
2. What is acceptable to me?
Holding expenditure relatively steady, with some salary increases for the troops to try to address retention issues.
The Tories (who have been making political hay from the logistics failures in the Gulf, caused by persistent underfunding) seem to be proposing Defence cuts. That is unacceptable. I never thought I would see a time when the Labour Party was more trustworthy on Defence and National Security. Never.
Plastic Gangster has beaten me to the punch on this one, and I endorse everything he says:
"It seems pretty clear that the Tories are not going to be going into the elections as the party of real term defence spending increases. This was probably always too much to hope for. Bah. However, I'm not quite sure what the programme outlined today is going to mean for defence. From what I can tell, it mostly seems to be Labour people putting words in Letwin's mouth, but if the worst case scenario is true then it is actually now quite conceivable that far from offering anything extra, the Tories could actually go into the next election with what amounts to a programme of real term defence cuts - indeed, quite possibly (unless Vincent Cable's reported ideas for slashing defence spending actually pan out) as the least defence-friendly of any of the three main parties.
The Tories are beginning to sound like the Democrats. Which is an important analogy. I am quite dismissive of US conservatives' complaints about Bush's profligacy and his so called 'betrayals' of his base. The reason for that is quite simply that when the Democrats are unfit to be entrusted with the defence of the West, conservatives can't afford to quibble. I abhor the Labour Party - its collectivism, its class envy, its political correctness etc. But so long as Blair is in charge I actually trust them to defend western civilisation. I had thought that the Tories could not only be trusted but would do a better job. Sadly that seems not to be the case.
In the present circumstances, my personal view is that this would be unforgivable."
The rest of Letwin's proposals were quite good, though the 'civil service hiring freeze' smacks a little of identifying the problem but not knowing how to fix it (and would result in things like hiring no new secretaries at GCHQ while not sacking a single Anti-Smoking counsellor). But 'quite good' on public services does not make up for 'criminally irresponsible' on National Security.
Message to Howard, Letwin et al: fix this please.
Thursday, February 12, 2004
215 years later and still no idea about Liberté
Plenty of ink, both physical and electronic has been spilled on the subject of France's hijab ban, so I'm not going to go into the details of the matter (In one sentence: I personally think the hijab is pretty repugnant for a variety of reasons, but it is not my place, and it is not the state's place to ban people from wearing it to school). The point I want to make, is one that I haven't seen anyone else make so far, and that is the Eurosceptic angle.
Lets step back from this a bit. In the space of a few months, the French have gone from discussing this harebrained idea to enacting it by an overwhelming majority (494-36). Meanwhile, the Belgians are talking about following suit. As are the Norwegians. As are the Germans. And there will be more to follow.
Meanwhile, in Blighty, we look on aghast, unsure whether to laugh at their stupidity or scream at them to step back from a course that will inevitably make their problems worse. But what is striking about it, is the universality of the views on this, on both sides of the Channel. Because this is an idea which simply would never even get proposed in the UK. From High Tories to the Trotskyite fringe, no one here wants to do this, but in Euroland left and right are pretty united on it.
And right there you have the divide. While our current masters try to emulate the Europeans on such matters as tax and spending, and our middle classes buy up holiday homes across the continent the fact remains: beneath the veneer we are as different in our understanding of liberty as we ever were. This is a unique moment to reach out to the Guardian reading classes, and gently remind them that we Eurosceptics have far more in common with them than their good friend Jacques after all.
Wednesday, February 11, 2004
The New Republic supports a liberal interventionist foreign policy. The trouble is, its doing its best to prevent one being adopted.
Now that Joe Lieberman is out of the race, The New Republic is kinda lost. After all, despite its leftward drift over the past couple of years (understandable now that the Democrats are out of power), it is the house journal of the New Democrats. If a Democrat pundit is pro-war, chances are they are from TNR. But the way the primaries have been going, that wing of the Democratic party has been routed, so TNR's influence is somewhat diminished.
Nevertheless, they really don't like Bush. In fact, last year they ran an article by one of their main columnists entitled "Why I hate President Bush". Which means that in a week or two, once John Kerry has the Democratic nomination sealed, and Dean and Edwards have dropped out of the race, TNR will loudly and consistently start putting forward the case for...a man who voted against Missile Defence, who voted to cut the CIA and FBI budgets during the 1990s (there was this peace dividend you see), who voted against the B2 bomber, who voted against the First Gulf War etc etc - you get the point.
And so we will shift into rationalisation time. People at TNR who've been critical of the reconstruction policy in Afghanistan or Iraq will ramp up their attacks. We'll hear what a mess the Bush team have made of International Relations. And we'll also hear (in muttered tones) how much better a Kerry administration would be at doing all of this.
Now, I'm not saying that some of TNR's criticisms of Bush's policies in the Wars Against Terrorism aren't valid. What I'm worried about is that after November the chaps and chapesses at TNR are going to wake up and find their credibility on foreign affairs shot. There's a very simple reason for this. TNR supported the War in Afghanistan and the War in Iraq. TNR will also be telling us how wonderful John Kerry is. Yet it is patently obvious to anyone who isn't smoking crack that if John Kerry were president now, the Iraq war would not have happened. Kerry might have invaded Afghanistan, but frankly I am not convinced he would have done.
Now there are plenty of areas the Bush guys have not lived up to their rhetoric about democratisation and freedom, but its early days yet and that doctrine is steadily taking shape (and being vigorously fought by the incompetent reactionaries at State). If Bush wins re-election there is a chance that the liberal, pro-liberty, TNR-friendly side of the agenda develops real substance and becomes its backbone. If Kerry wins, whatever else happens, that agenda will die. No ifs, no buts, it will be gone, and it will be back to interminable debates at the UN and mended fences with the Quai D'orsay.
Maybe the New Republic thinks that the liberal-interventionist foreign policy it has been arguing for for years is less important than getting a Democrat into the White House. But I bet they won't admit as much in the articles they publish over the next few months.
Tuesday, February 10, 2004
I was in London yesterday, and paid a visit to a store called Lush - for those unfamiliar with it it sells all manner of wonderful soap and bath products. My wife had asked me to go and buy some things there, but I did not have a list. So naturally in the store I phoned home to find out what to buy.
At first things did not go too well. Having been directed to the items I was looking for, I realised there was a problem. In front of me were about a dozen different brightly coloured "soapy things". They each had a name, and I could describe what they looked like but then the dread question, for which the male of the species is unprepared:
"What does it smell like?," asked my wife.
Smell like!! How should I know? It smelt like soap. OK, maybe a hint of lemon or something.
"Err, citrus soap...?" I replied.
And so onto the next one. Sadly, it also smelt of soap ... and lemons. I could see a pattern emerging, and in fear of being asked to pick one based on it smelling of (say) oranges I began reading out ingredients. It was going to be a difficult business.
Fortunately, this is the broadband age not the dial-up decade, so in addition to mobile technology we were able to 'leverage the power of the internet' to solve the problem, without hanging up the phone: my wife visited the Lush website and identified what was required. Everything became simple and managable again: I had a list!
I offer this tale, not as anything particularly profound but simply as a recognition that a society loaded with technology can solve unexpected problems almost before you even realise they occur. For which, men everywhere can be grateful.
Q and A
Plastic Gangster also poses a question:
P.S. John Derbyshire reports than conservative Christians are swinging in behind Bush. Well, that's the election sorted then, eh?No. But given 4 million such voters didn't show up at the polls last time when they had been expected to, I'd say that that's item number one on Mr Rove's checklist sorted out.
Via Plastic Gangster, two articles of note. Mille Collines pt1. Mille Collines pt2.
Monday, February 09, 2004
Peter Cuthbertson is having wicked thoughts
Careful Peter, or its off to the re-education camp for you!
Sunday, February 08, 2004
They called it National Socialism for a reason...
Paul, over at Voice of the Future points out something about the BNP that does not get mentioned all that often - that far from being 'right wing' in the way the Conservative party is they actually stand for a wide range of leftist positions. Anyone who is prepared to give the matter a little thought can see this - after all the BNP's main recruiting grounds are not leafy suburbs full of Tory voters but the inner city strongholds of Labour. A friend of mine put it very well when he said [paraphrasing]:
While the Tories say "government is not the solution to your problems", Labour says "government can solve all your problems". The BNP in turn says "yes, government would solve all your problems if it weren't for the [insert scapegoat of choice] taking everything that's rightfully yours".
Friday, February 06, 2004
An important picture
It is quite easy to take things for granted once they become routine. Thus in this age where we can guide a bomb to its target via a radio signal from space it is relatively easy for people to forget how far we've come. Nowadays we have seen so many shots of a single targetted bomb taking out a bridge that we find such footage unremarkable. This picture of the Bielfeld Viaduct, in western Germany, in 1945 shows why we should not be so blase.
War is a constant of the human experience - present to some degree or other through all of recorded history in all civilisations the world over. After the carnage of the 20th century we should be thankful that when we wage war, our civilisation is able to do so with such precision and consequent minimal loss of innocent life. That is a luxury which has rarely been afforded even the strong.
That picture is one of millions of Allied Aerial Reconnaissance Photos which have been digitised at Keele University. They will all be available online via a searchable map, once the archive have built a website that can cope with the interest that their launch generated. In the meantime they have small selection of photos available. The site is definitely worth a visit.
I suppose, given the new definition of the word now in use, that this means the UN LIED!!!!
Thursday, February 05, 2004
It seems I've gone over my monthly bandwidth allocation for hosting the graphic and .css file. Things should rectify themselves soon, so in the meantime please bear with us.
Wednesday, February 04, 2004
Last night's results mean the campaign goes on for another week or two, but I can't see it lasting any longer than that. While Edwards won handsomely in South Carolina, and came second in Missouri, Clark pipped him in Oklahoma and came second in Arizona, New Mexico and North Dakota. The result (once this filters into the conventional wisdom) is that there is no clear un-Kerry. Thus we move on to Michigan (where Kerry will win big) and Washington, where neither Clark nor Edwards is strong. Washington is probably Howard Dean's Waterloo - its a state that fits well with his demographic (among Democrats at least) and if he can't win there then he can't win anywhere. Then we come back south next week.
The end result of this is that Kerry is winning states everywhere while his opponents are holed up regionally and splitting votes between each other. If one of them can do unexpectedly well on Saturday then they might be able to build enough momentum to keep going but I'm inclined to think its too late for that - because even if someone gets enough movement to stay in the race they need even more momentum on top of that to actually beat Kerry. The DNC is going to recognise that and begin pressurising people to quit.
OK, so much for predictive power. Am fairly busy today, but will try to post something a little later.
Tuesday, February 03, 2004
Kerry, Kerry, Kerry...
OK, here goes, with the predictions for today. I'm going to be an outlier from the pack and predict a Kerry sweep which all but locks up the nomination.
AZ: Kerry, Clark, Dean, Edwards
MO: Kerry (with a majority), Edwards, Dean, Clark
OK: Kerry (squeaker), Clark, Edwards, Dean
SC: Kerry (squeaker), Edwards, Clark, Dean & Sharpton in a 3 way for 3rd
DE: Kerry, Lieberman, Dean, Clark, Edwards
NM: Kerry, Dean, Clark, Edwards
ND: Kerry, Clark, Edwards, Dean
Mandatory hedge: Remote possibility of polls being wrong and delivering a big Edwards victory in South Carolina
Conclusions: Assuming things go as above, Edwards and Clark will have prevented each other from becoming the un-Kerry, and will promptly run aground, leaving a horribly mauled Dean to make his last stand in Michigan on Saturday.
Inquiries, WMD and the Tories
Mark Steyn, as usual, hits the nail on the head:
The Left is remarkably nonchalant about these new terrors. When nuclear weapons were an elite club of five relatively sane world powers, the Left was convinced the planet was about to go ka-boom any minute, and the handful of us who survived would be walking in a nuclear winter wonderland. Now anyone with a few thousand bucks and an unlisted number in Islamabad in his Rolodex can get a nuke, and the Left couldn't care less.
The Right should know better. If he wants, Mr Howard can have some sport with Mr Blair. But, if he aids the perception that Blair took Britain to war under false pretences, the Tories will do the country a grave disservice. One day Mr Howard might be prime minister and, chances are, in the murky world that lies ahead, he'll have to commit British forces on far less hard evidence than existed vis à vis Saddam. Conservatives shouldn't assist the Western world's self-loathing fringe in imposing a burden of proof that can never be met. The alternative to pre-emption is defeat. If you want a real "underlying issue", that's it.
Monday, February 02, 2004
Excellent piece exposing the myths of the Patriot Act
The wrong answer
One of the recurring errors of the pre-9/11 world was our tendency to treat terrorists as criminals, rather than saboteurs and spies. One reason for doing this was laziness. From the point of view of the state it is far far simpler to set the police on the terrorists and push them through the court system than to utilise a military process, which would require the admission that enemy agents (or indeed armed rebels) were at large in the country. This would also require a thorough review of things like border controls. For a few isolated losers this really did not seem worth it.
The scale of the threat has changed dramatically (or rather has revealed itself) and attempts are being made to adapt the judicial process to cope. In the UK this has resulted in a typical New Labour assault on ancient English Liberties:
Home Secretary David Blunkett has outlined wide-ranging proposals that could lead to secret trials without juries.
This is the wrong answer to the problem, rooted in the continued assumption that we are not really at war, and that police and courts are the way to handle the problem. They emphatically are not. There are many ways in which we can handle the threat of Islamist mass murderers and their human bombs, but undermining the British judicial system is not the way to do it.
Judges would be allowed to convict if they think the defendant is probably, or on a balance of probabilities is guilty - a lower burden of proof than proof of guilt beyond reasonable doubt, as is adhered to in regular trials.
I personally think the US is closer to the right approach with its proposed military tribunals, since they separate suspected enemies of the state from the general criminal justice system. [How best to deal with domestic terrorists and terror-enablers is a separate issue since they should enjoy their basic freedoms as deserved by their passport. I would suggest a treason trial followed by a short drop and a sudden stop]. As to criticism of this process from the proponents of 'international law' I have to say that we should bear in mind that under 'international law' (the Geneva Conventions to be precise) the aforementioned saboteurs and spies can be summarily shot without trial. Furthermore, criticisms of Camp Delta from continental countries with no habeas corpus or jury systems in their standard justice systems do not sit well at all.
Pulling terrorist-related prosecutions out of the criminal system and into a military court is the best way to fight the War on Terror without doing irreperable damage to the system of justice reserved for the rest of us.
Oh, in that case...
This has to be the most pathetic whine yet:
British airline pilots are questioning US intelligence that has led to the grounding of six transatlantic flights, including London to Washington services.Why on earth should the opinions of pilots on whether the terror threat is valid be listened to? Do they have access to the Echelon decrypts? Has BALPA been tracking suspected terrorists leaving the Middle East? No. If the Met Office issued a weather advisory that called for the cancellation of some flights would BALPA send a spokesman out to question the accuracy of the weathermen? I doubt it somehow. This surely is a case of "you do your job, and let the analysts do theirs".
A quick perusal of The Note for yesterday, reveals Kerry in North Dakota, and Edwards in South Carolina, as was Sharpton. Dean was in none of the Tuesday states, flitting between Michigan and Wisconsin. Clark is doing Oklahoma and Arizona. I'll pop back later for an update of today's schedule, but I'd say its looking like "Plan B" from Kerry with Edwards bottled up in the Palmetto State. Dean has obviously given up on getting a win on Tuesday and is hoping to hold a solid position based on his core supporters.
I didn't mention that Lieberman was putting masses of effort into Delaware. Well I should have done because it seems he's in a strong second place there - admittedly he's polling 16%, but getting into double-figures is quite an achievement for him.
Meanwhile, Missouri doesn't look like it will be the showdown after all: Kerry has a lock on it, polling in the forties. Therefore attention for the showdown shifts to the South West.
Well, nothing really new. The show down is definitely in the South West, which is where everyone is, except notably: Edwards (Sharpton is also in South Carolina, but there really is no point in him going anywhere else at this stage). That Edwards is sitting in South Carolina means one of two things: 1) he's in trouble or 2) he figures the best chance to go forwards is to win South Carolina massively. Dean is actually doing some campaigning down in the South West, but with all the indications and talk being about him keeping his powder dry I think he's just doing the minimum to avoid dropping down below third place in each state.
We will see what the overnight tracking polls say about all this, and then post some predictions tomorrow.
Sunday, February 01, 2004
Read the small-print
Andrew Sullivan links to a poll which shows George W. Bush only leading 45-43 in South Carolina, and implies it is bad news for the White House. Well to be fair, right now South Carolina is being carpet-bombed with Democratic TV-spots in advance of Tuesday while the White House is doing no campaigning, but nevertheless the poll bears some looking at. Specifically, looking at the small print at the bottom:
"This poll was conducted among a statewide random sample of 807 registered voters, including 365 likely Democratic primary voters, sampled from lists of registered voters and supplemented by voters interviewed from a random sample of South Carolina telephone numbers that are unlisted. Interviews were conducted January 28-29, 2004. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus four percentage points for results based on the full sample of registered voters and plus or minus five percentage points for results based on likely Democratic primary voters."365 likely to vote in the Democratic Primary, out of 807 is 45%, which means two things: 1) the poll is heavily skewed to the Democrats, and 2) 4.5% of Democratic Primary voters do not intend to vote Democrat in November!