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An Anglo-American blog with conservative leanings, devoted to politics, current affairs and the War


Drake's Drum?

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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

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Friday, January 30, 2004

A sorry spectacle
So with Gilligan leaving the BBC, how long before he shows up at the Spectator? Seriously, I'd lay money on it. It seems the Speccie has decided to compound the mistake Michael Howard made and come down against Hutton. Making common cause with the loonies at 'Al-Independent'* is not what one would normally expect from Boris and co but then the war has made for some strange bedfellows. Thus expect the absurd spectacle of Sir Max Hastings complaining about establishment plots, while Steven Glover and Matthew Paris whinge about the need for a new inquiry as a sort of betweeded parody version of the left's long campaign for a new Bloody Sunday inquiry. Perhaps in 25 years time we can count on a Law Lord to hold a rematch and pronounce the right verdict, rehabilitating the aged Gilligan and appointing him to the Director-Generalship of the BBC.

Or maybe not. After all, given that the 'bring back Gilligan' campaign is centered on the Spectator, there's a good chance no one will notice.

Britain's only right-wing weekly is, I have to say, a sorry sight. Now this is not necessarily a criticism of Boris Johnson (despite his becoming unhinged over Hutton), though the time pressures of being an MP clearly show from the Speccie's, how shall we say, variable quality of late. The likes of Hastings and Paris may be insufferable but they can string a sentence together which is more than can be said for some of the other authors who sometimes appear there. The problem of the Spectator goes deeper than publishing articles by the sort of person who thinks fighting the abolition of hunting is worth everything up to and including a revolution, but that its OK to leave an entire people to be ground into the dust. In essence it boils down to the question: "What is the Spectator and what is it for?"

If you asked most people that they would probably tell you that its the house magazine of the Conservative party. And to an extent that is true. Most articles are written by rightists and its editorials are pretty staunch Tory stuff. But if that is what the Spectator is trying to do, it has to be said, that it does a shockingly bad job of it. Now, to be fair it boasts on its website of following no party line, so I guess they would argue in their defence that they do not seek to be this, stating rather:

"The Spectator's taste for controversy, however, remains undiminished. There is no party line to which our writers are bound - originality of thought and elegance of expression are the sole editorial constraints."
But I do not think this is a good enough excuse. There is no question that the magazine is right wing. There is no question that it markets itself as right wing. Join the Tory party, and the first thing you'll receive, along with an advert for hearing aids or stair lifts is a flyer pushing the Spectator. It may not masquerade as a party publication but there is no doubt that it claims to be a small 'c' consevrative, small 'u' unionist title. Which begs the question - why given the superabundance of leftist media in the UK does it sometimes run pieces by left wing Labour MPs and other avowed socialists?

The trouble is that they are trying to have it both ways. They have a right wing readership. They market themselves to the right, but they see themselves as an agendaless journal of politics, arts and letters. Which is fine - except that it does not explain why they have an editorial column. Furthermore, if this is how the Spectator sees itself, it should be more honest about it, because if it is unwilling to be the mouthpiece of the British Right, the British Right needs to stop reading the Speccie and find one.

The contrast here with America is stark. For the US has a diverse range of serious political titles which span the intellectual gamut from left to right such as the liberal Village Voice, New Democrat New Republic, Neocon Weekly Standard, Conservative National Review, not to mention the palaeocon titles like the American Conservative or Chronicles. Despite their diversity of thought all of these titles have something in common: a clear editorial direction. For sure, they will run dissenting pieces - National Review will happily criticise the Bush Administration on some issue or another, similarly the New Republic is excellent when attacking the institutional prejudices of the liberal wing of its preferred party. But when you pick up a copy of a magazine you know what you are getting. National Review isn't suddenly going to run a guest article by Hillary Clinton. Jonah Goldberg won't suddenly have a piece in the Village Voice. Some might criticise this narrowness, but I would argue that it fosters better thinking and more cross party debate (particularly given the extension of these titles onto the web).

Following a tighter editorial line certainly limits each title's appeal but is more than made up for by the coherence of their content and the influence they are able to exert on the political process and agenda - something that the Spectator achieves only rarely. And most of them do this without making money, raising funds through donations, merchandising and books, which demonstrates that it is possible to adopt a narrower view and find a survivable niche.

The Spectator's lack of direction is symptomatic of a wider problem with British conservatism. There is no 'Conservative Movement' in the UK and conservatives have come to rely too heavily on the Tory party. For sure when it has fallen on hard times the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph have taken up some of the slack, but that is about it. Right Wing think tanks have very little clout and rarely attempt to make their positions known to the general population, preferring to concentrate on Tory MPs. And this over-reliance on the Tories has been a disaster elsewhere: conservatives have sat and watched institution after institution (the National Trust, the RSPCA, the Church, the Bar Council to name but a few) be wrenched from their grasp and have done nothing in reply.

Overcoming this is the key challenge for conservatism in Britain in the early 21st Century, which is where we return to the Spectator. That that magazine has been unable to make more of an impact despite the backing of a hitherto successful newspaper group is disappointing. That the Spectator's website is so dull and unimaginative is a scandal. Hollinger's present difficulties represent a unique opportunity for change, for the development of a truly focused right-wing magazine that knows what it is trying to do. As I said above, this goes far beyond the issue of who edits the Speccie: someone needs to completely overhaul the magazine, and set some clear objectives to pursue. The magazine should focus on creating a true conservative movement to provide footsoldiers, philosophers and funds to the Tory party - and crucially to those sypathetic to the Right in other parties large and small. If this cannot be done, then a new title is needed - but it would be easier to start with the Spectator. This should all of course have been done years ago. It wasn't, but the excuse that the hill has therefore grown too big to climb is wearing a little thin.


*The Indy's claim to be a quality newspaper is looking more risible by the day: first they start emulating the tabloids with front page editorial screeds, and then they decide to issue that ridiculous stunted version - clearly they think their readers are too stupid to know how to fold a newspaper. That the Times has followed suit is pitiful.

Posted by Sir Francis  

3
Things just get better and better - 3 down!

Posted by Sir Francis  

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Ho Ho
Another one down! And an apology! The past 24 hours have been fantastic. Watching the BBC get its just desserts is too sweet for words. Sadly I fear Tony will be wanting to mend fences now that honour is satisfied, rather than kicking them while they are down. We can but hope though.

Posted by Sir Francis  

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Misjudgement
The Conservative Party's misjudgement on Hutton (which is something we have been talking about for some time) is unfortunate. Blair was right to go to war, and did nothing wrong over the Kelly affair, but his government is bad for the country in many other ways.

A Tory government would still support the war so it is possible to think about those other issues . However after this week, a Tory government is a distant prospect. By pushing the focus of Hutton onto Blair the Tories have created Tony's 'nadir moment': from here its an upward trajectory for him all the way to the election.

Posted by Sir Francis  

Blogroll
I've got round to adding a few blogs I've been reading more of lately to the blogroll - Jay Manifold's A Voyage to Arcturus, Poliblog, Slublog, Rand Simberg's Transterrestrial Musings and Ace of Spades HQ.

Posted by Sir Francis  

Prediction
After the initial post-Hutton shock subsides, I bet that BBC coverage of war and WMD related stories becomes even more slanted, innacurate and snarky.

Posted by Sir Francis  

Democrat Roleplay
No, this post isn't about the classic post of a couple of weeks ago over at Ace of Spades. What this is about is entering the fools pastime of predictions, namely trying to work out what the Democratic hopefuls are going to be up to over the next week. We've seen lots of polls over the past few days and will be seeing many more, but polls are but one weapon in the armchair pundit's arsenal. Another thing to look at is what the campaigns think. Obviously, if you ask them they'll tell you they are winning, but you can look at what they are actually doing - where they are, what issues they are picking up on to get a better picture. In order to do that effectively we have to have something to measure them against, so that we can get a feel for whether they think things are going better or worse than planned.

So, lets look at next week. All the press coverage treats it as if it were just South Carolina voting, but its not. In addition there are primaries in Missouri, Delaware, Oklahoma and Arizona and caucuses in New Mexico and North Dakota. I would hazard that we will see all the candidates in South Carolina for appearances sake, but the actual key battles will be elsewhere. My reasoning is based on looking at the contenders and what I would try to do if I were they. I'm concentrating mainly on the three surviving major candidates: Kerry, Dean and Edwards, but because of their potential spoiling impact there is a nod to Clark and Sharpton as well. Kucunich and Lieberman are dead in the water, but then you knew that.

Kerry:
If I were Kerry I would be thinking as follows: I'm now the frontrunner. That means some bad things (everyone is after me) but it also gives me momentum and the opportunity to lock this up. The ideal scenario would be to beat Edwards in South Carolina - effectively knocking him out of the race. Therefore I would dip a toe into the waters down there. However, that may be too much to hope for, and therefore if it is apparent that there is little chance of victory there I would move on to plan B. Plan B is the "South Carolina doesn't matter" approach, and consists of winning all the other states voting on February 3rd. If that happens my people can spin it that "Of course Edwards won in South Carolina, he was born there and is Senator for the neighbouring state. Edwards was always going to win South Carolina, but we've won everywhere else." An Edwards win in South Carolina means next to nothing if I win everywhere else.

Edwards:
If I were Edwards I would recognise this too, and my goal would be to win one other state at minimum and therefore stall Kerry's plan B. Obviously losing South Carolina means its game over so I have to campaign there to lock it up, but I'd be looking to get out of South Carolina and into a friendly state as soon as I can. Missouri, Arizona or Oklahoma fit the bill for that.


Dean:
Ouch. This week is looking tough. Again I'll do the obligatory trip to South Carolina. It might be worth pulling some stunt there to boost ratings with liberals elsewhere while writing off the state - e.g. slam Bob Jones University or intervene in the Confederate Flag debate. Then I'd need a win. Any win will do. But a win is needed. If I can get through this week and into the following one things start to look up: before the Virginia primary on February 10th, Democrats Abroad will vote (probably for me) - OK its only 7 delegates but its a potential small boost. Maine will also vote, along with Dean-friendly Washington and then there is Michigan which I have been working really hard. But in order to have a chance in those three I have to seem viable after the 3rd. Therefore a win is needed. Somewhere out of the way that no-one else is bothering with. Like North Dakota.

Clark:
Ok, I'm nuts and so I might not do this, but if I take my meds I'll recognise that I have to win this week or it is all over. (It may even be too late for that). I need a win more than Dean does. I'll probably try and duke it out with Howard in North Dakota, or I'll stick closer to home and go for Oklahoma or Missouri.

Sharpton:
OK, I shouldn't even be being considered for this, but for some reason the media has overlooked that. Thing is, its pretty obvious that I'm nowhere near the operator that Jesse Jackson was in '88 and I'm trailing badly. South carolina is my best hope (and somewhere I can potentially cause an upset by coming second). After that, I guess I might head over to St Louis for some heavy duty demagoguery, now that local boy Gephardt is out of the running.


So based on the above, and bearing in mind that campaign appearances matter, but advertising spend matters more, watch where the campaigns go this week. In particular watch Edwards. If Kerry is going for South Carolina, then he can't afford to leave, and if Kerry gives up on it its possible Clark or Sharpton might hold him back there. So if you see Edwards shift his campaigning attention to Missouri, then you can tell South Carolina is in the bag. And don't forget Dean. If he can survive this week, the one that follows will be kinder to him. Finally, Missouri looks like the primary to watch, as it is on the routemaps of Kerry, Edwards, Sharpton and Clark - and Dean may be unable to resist it.

Posted by Sir Francis  

Ha Ha
Hutton Report Leaked! Doubtless people will be complaining that it was leaked by Downing Street, but I doubt it. My bet: someone at the printers just made several (tens of?) thousand pounds.

And even better, it seems the BBC gets stitched up and Tony gets let off the hook, which is the best result for everyone who supported the war (which is what this sideshow was really all about). The Tories have made a huge tactical error in joining the 'get Blair' bandwagon on this.

Posted by Sir Francis  

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Visited States
This is a fun little tool and I've filled it out to show which states I have been to. The second version limits it to states I have actually spent the night in:


create your own visited states map
or write about it on the open travel guide


create your own visited states map
or write about it on the open travel guide

Posted by Sir Francis  

Ouch
I think this is the diplomatic equivalent of a slap in the face. And from Powell no less.

Posted by Sir Francis  

Monday, January 26, 2004

Note Kerry's words
Even as John kerry campaigns for the Democratic nomination claiming the mantle of electability, he demonstrates why he is unelectable. Of Dean he said this:

At one stop, Kerry told David and Diana Frothingham that Dean is weak on foreign policy issues, and favors bolstering taxes on middle-class voters.

"The Republicans will just kill us on this," Kerry said.
Note - he didn't condemn Dean's statements on Iraq (e.g. his latest, that the people of Iraq are worse off than they were under Hussein) as wrong. He didn't say "Gov. Dean's proposed tax hike would hurt the economy." He objected on the grounds that they were vote losers - implying that he agrees with Dean on substance, and only has a problem with presentation.

Meanwhile he apparently is unaware of the notion of irony (my emphasis):
Even as he warned that Dean would be a GOP target, Kerry defended himself against Republican accusations that he has a liberal voting record in the Senate. "That dog won't hunt," he told about 2,000 people who came to hear him and Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.

Posted by Sir Francis  

Friday, January 23, 2004

Proof
The statements by Liberal Democrat MP Jenny Tonge in sympathy with Palestinian mass murderers demonstrates unequivocally that the Lib Dems are now the natural home for idiotarians, communists, islamists and others of that ilk. Somewhere the shades of Lloyd George and Gladstone are weeping.

Posted by Sir Francis  

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Tin foil alert
After successfully predicting the loonies claims of oil on Mars, lets have another go. How long before they start muttering about why Bush was in Roswell, NM today? Perhaps Madeleine Albright will suggest he was personally interrogating Osama Bin Laden and claim the US is hiding him in Area 51!

Posted by Sir Francis  

Equipment Problems
Over the past week, hardly a day has gone by without some new report of logistical failures in the British Army during last year's Iraq War. While it is true that there is a long tradition of such incompetences - in the heyday of the Empire it was not unusual for a regimental commander to equip his troops with proper footwear out of his own pocket - it is hardly something to be proud of, particularly since we now fight a more logistics-dependent type of warfare than ever before.

These scandals result in calls for public enquiries, and questions in parliament from opposition MPs, but really their cause is plain as day. Since the end of the Cold War the Defence budget has been cut almost every year. Since the world not obliged by becoming more peaceful, and since Britain retains the responsibilities of a great power (not to mention the standing commitment of 20,000 troops to Ulster and outrageously a similar number to defend Germany) these cuts have been achieved mainly through streamlining the tail. Medical facilities have been axed, logistical corps merged and equipment stores consolidated. And the end result of this is that the Army is unable to provide its soldiers with basic kit.

As more of these stories emerge, there will be a desperate blame game and the usual parliamentary pursuit of pin the blame on the minister will ensue. It should be remembered that the real blame for this does not lie with one minister or another or one government or another. Rather it is Parliament itself's own fault for not having passed enough money into the Defence budget, and for failing to hold governments of both parties to account when their budgets weakened the national defence. For over a decade we have had campaigns for a penny on tax for teachers, or for doctors, or for the railways. But no one has called for a penny on tax (or better a mass sacking in town halls up and down the land) for the sake of the military. That must change.

Posted by Sir Francis  

Hurrah!
A great British eccentric completes his endeavors...

Posted by Sir Francis  

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Rebel Yell
I'm sure someone's already pointed this out but with Dean's roar sounding like something from a WWF smackdown, maybe it was a last ditch attempt to secure the votes of those fabled voters - "the guys with Confederate flags on their pickup trucks."

Posted by Sir Francis  

Steyn
Must read article by Mark Steyn about the threat to a free press in the UK:

Now I'm sure Ms Nathan didn't reach her present eminence [a member of Ofcom, the communications regulator] by not being good at this line of work. But suppose she stepped down and some showboating commissar like Trevor Phillips took her place, and he took the same inventively elasticated view of his remit as he does in his current position.

Suppose he demanded to know from the Messrs Barclay whether they proposed to carry on running certain columnists, and whether, say, Barbara Amiel and Mark Steyn mightn't benefit from a course in Islamophobic electrotherapy treatment. This isn't entirely theoretical on my part, since a couple of pals and I had been mulling over a bid for The Spectator. It comes as a shock to discover that the entire British newspaper industry is now sorta semi-nationalised.

Of course, once government assumes responsibility for everything, it generally ceases to be able to perform the functions for which it ought to be responsible. When the Violent Crimes unit is tied up investigating Robert Kilroy-Silk, that's great news for anyone planning a violent crime.

Posted by Sir Francis  

Oh Joe
As we move on to New Hampshire it occurs to me that while Dean, his emulator Clark and his pseudo-emulator Kerry are fighting it out for the liberal votes only Edwards and Lieberman are seriously going after the conservative Democrats. Lieberman's campaign was based on ignoring Iowa. Edwards now has momentum (he already had money) and a buzz. I reckon there's a better than even chance that Edwards sinks Lieberman next week.

Posted by Sir Francis  

Wow!
Last night's Iowa result certainly took me by surprise, though I guess the evidence of the wheels coming off Dean was there for those who cared to look. Dean deserved to get trashed, so it is quite satisfying that he did. I don't think Kerry is much better, but Edwards is. [I think Edwards would still lose to Bush though, but his strong showing implies that the sane wing of the Democratic party is still there]*. Hopefully New Hampshire will follow suit and defenestrate Dean and Clark. Meanwhile, I had a look at some of the kool-aid drinkers over at Dean's blog - enjoy:

PARANOIA:
"How is it that the number of princincts reporting in keep going up, but the percentage for each candidate remain the same. The odds of that happening is rather slim, right? Just seems weird to me. Bring on New Hampshire!"

"Funny how Carville predict exactly to order of this caucus. For heavens sake EVEN Dole doesn't believe it!!"

DENIAL:
"We will win in NH....we got Vermonters!"

"Kerry and Edwards are insiders - Dean has had the DNC, the RNC and the Press against him - aggressively. Dean has TRIUMPHED. Now Kerry can pick buckshot out of his rear!!!!!"

"The people in Iowa must not be aware that Kerry and Edwards have both run two of the nastiest smear campaigns ever. Edwards is admitting right on LKL now that he and Kucinich made a deal. On to NH!!!"

RAGE:
"like i said...if we lose N.H. lets start a third party.....screw the democratic party.....they voted for the war.....which means they voted for bush....."

"kerry in the lead........but if kerry gets nominated i will stay at home why vote for kerry when you can have bush.. if dean loses N.H......i think its time to start a third party"

CRAZY:

"F*&^ Iowa and f*&^ the media! We'll change this country even if it means we have to raise arms!"
To be fair to them though, one of them did have one of the best analyses of why Kerry won that I've seen, if you could be bothered to fish through the bile:
"People; We were smoked tonite. I hope our campaign takes a long hard look at what happened. Because we were just beaten by a friggin statue. If you ask me, we found all these votes, and through our mismanagement of our message and good work by Kerry's people, he got almost all of them to vote for him."

* Edwards voted to defund the occupation of Iraq, which was particularly galling as he had up till then been steadfast in his support of the war. The reason for that vote was basically to buy some primary support - proof that the Democrats have a long way to go before they can be trusted on National Security, irrespective of who they nominate.

Posted by Sir Francis  

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Libertarian 'Space Hounds' and Buchananite Closed-Border-Cons - the similarities
It falls to me, I guess, to come out fighting on President Bush's side over his Space Policy speech. I am astonished at the pessimistic commentary around the web on this subject over the past 24 hours. The Professor is 'lukewarm', Rand Simberg is unimpressed, Jay Manifold also. And everyone else seems to take their cue from that. And I find this hard to understand.

But then, there is something called "being too close to the problem". You see there's lots and lots of stuff that wasn't in Bush's speech that it would have been nice to see. Explicit encouragement of private exploration of space for example or tax breaks for those investing in space. Or half a dozen other things. But then, I'm interested in space travel. I like space probes, I like pictures beamed back from other worlds. When some demagogue whinges about the cost of space travel ("while we still have homeless people") I tell 'em to piss off. You see I'm already on board with the programme - and so are all the other space-geeks of the blogosphere.

So that just leaves 99%+ of the US population to convince.

In some parts of the web (particularly libertarian leaning sites) there already is consensus that we need private enterprise up in orbit, and exploring the moon. And I agree, I'm convinced. But we forget that most people haven't heard of the X-prize, and therefore to expect Bush to stake the US' space policy for the next generation on an unknown group of companies versus a flawed but well known and (when run properly) proven Space Agency, it really is no surprise that he's gone with NASA. We might disagree but right now for all the pipe dreams of the libertarians there is no alternative to NASA*. And comments about NASA beiong met on the moon by private companies already being there are laughable. There will one day be a space market, but a big and organised NASA programme will do more to create it than a handful of keen entrepreurs.

The complaints about Bush's speech remind me of the palaeocon rantings in response to last week's immigration policy: Demanding purity over practicality. Picking at the suggested way forward rather than welcoming it over inaction. (After all, Bush could have just stuck with the status quo and mouthed off some platitudes. Instead he sees a problem and proposes to do something about it).

And a couple of the whinges are just absurd. Take this from Manifold:

"Specifying that the next destination after the Moon is Mars omits obvious intermediaries, namely the L1 and L2 points of the Earth-Moon and Sun-Earth systems, respectively; low-
Dv near-Earth asteroids; and possibly Phobos and Deimos as well, though it may be inferring too much to assume that they have been precluded as destinations. This introduces quality/technical risks into the Mars mission by skipping several ideal test environments, and cost risks by launching the Mars mission from the lunar surface rather than, say, L1."
Huh? Does he really think that Bush's roadmap of Orbit-->Moon-->Mars is the entire plan, or is he being facetious. Of course this sort of thing will be part of the planning and testing for the Mars mission. Bush didn't mention that there would be some testing of the Mars lander on Earth but, you know, I'm pretty sure there will be. To expect the US President to start blathering on about Lagrange points in a 30 minute high level policy address suggests that the space programme is unnecessary - some people are already on another planet.

Another whinge as made by some commenter on Simberg's site berated the lack of mention of a space elevator. For goodness' sake. Not only is elevator technology unproven, and according to some the basic mechanics needs work, but we are again in the realm of geekery. I know what a space elevator is, and if we can build it great. You had me at "wouldn't it be cool if...", but that's not good enough for the vast bulk of the population who have never heard of the idea. If you want one built, lobby your congressman when this comes up for a vote, convince them to add it into the plan, or hell, given the amount of stuff thats going to be going into orbit for the rest of this project, convince Bill Gates to invest in building one.

OK, so I've laid into some of the negative comments floating around, and I could set out on a point by point rebuttal of some of the other objections, but that defeats the objective here. I am not saying that Bush's plan is perfect - the White House isn't either. This is a starting point. The point of the speech is the laying out of objectives, so I'm now going to say out what I think is so good about it.

The most striking thing about the speech was how it reminded me of project management. Or specifically getting-out-of-a-mess project management. NASA has essentially flailed around for thirty years, doing things very inefficiently, having its budget salami sliced away and achieving little at great cost. Along the way it has picked up projects which have outstayed their usefulness (the Shuttle) and projects which should never have been agreed to in the first place (the Space Station). And NASA would be quite happy to pooter about in low earth orbit for a further thirty years, playing with space stations and just throwing probes at anything further away.

What Bush has done is say, 'enough' and give them new goals. But in doing so he's not messing around apportioning the blame for signing up to things like the ISS, he's just getting on with the job. So, we have a space station, and we have binding agreements to do it, so we can't just walk away from it. Fine, says Bush, and imposes a deadline after which it will consume no more resources and in the meantime assigns it a task (study of long term weightlessness) which will come in handy in the next phase of the new project. Turning a useless waste of money that we can't get out of into a useful waste of money that we can't get out of. I call that progress even if the purists don't.

Then we go back to the moon. And that starts soon, with preparatory survey probes being sent in the next few years, followed in due course bythe builders (a whole generation of uninvented robots right there).

Meanwhile the shuttle gets phased out (in 2010, when the Space Station is finished). The CEV will be in place in 2014. Now lots of people have bitched about the four year gap. I suspect they are overreacting. Because the new system sounds pretty complicated: for use as a launcher and for Earth-Moon activity. Therefore I suspect some kind of modular plan, which would allow for the Earth to Orbit feature to be available sooner. In any case, we will see. Maybe this will be something to be tidied up later, maybe there will be a four year gap in space activity. In the context of the wider programme that can be lived with. Better a four year hiatus in a thirty year programme to put us on Mars than always having astronauts up there, but not doing anything with them.

Once all of that is in place, the moonbase gets built. The frickin' moonbase folks. Not a pipe dream, not a forlorn wish, not science fiction, but actual US policy.

And then, with all the associated spin offs and sub-projects for all of that happening (and undoubtedly stimulating a new space industry), we start work for Mars.

Its all achievable, its a leisurely timetable to be sure, but that makes it affordable and there is an awful lot of work to be done - we could not built another Apollo system today - so we have to pay for our failure in the 1970s to do this then.

And fundamentally, remember this: its Bush. When he says something, it actually happens. For 12 years we talked about how good it would be to be rid of Saddam Hussein. Now he sits in a US cell. In assigning the task to NASA, its true Bush is taking a risk. But he doesn't have a real choice in the matter yet. And while he is giving NASA a chance to redeem itself, remember, this is the guy who walked away from the United Nations when it could not do the same. If in three years time NASA is talking about pushing the schedule back to 2050 and bickering over the design of the lunar survey pods, expect Bush to come back and hand it all over to the DoD (or if the fabled libertarian space industry has actually managed to raise some money and appear by then, maybe to them).

In closing, I accept there are things that are not to like or to be suspicious of in the plan, but people need to sit back from the issue and look at it in the round. 2 days ago US Space Policy was directionless and things like Moonbases and Mars Missions weren't mentioned at all. Now they are at the heart of the plan, and great things are going to happen. That is down to Bush. We can quibble over the details when the Presidential commission gets underway but for now all friends of space should be rejoicing.


* Some of course want NASA gone, because they think it gets in the way of private enterprise. All I have to say to that is that while there are areas in which NASA needs to sort its attitudes to commerce out, no one can seriously expect us to believe that if NASA simply vanished overnight there would be anywhere near the current amount of activity in space. Long term I would like to see NASA broken up and turned into a kind of space regulator, but that is just not practical yet.

Posted by Sir Francis  

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Lift Off!
We'll have the full details later, but so far I like what I hear about the Mars and Moon projects.

The administration said part of the funding for the moon-Mars initiative would come from reallocation of money already in NASA's budget, including phasing out of the space shuttle and quickly concluding the U.S. obligations to the International Space Station (search). The shuttle now costs NASA about $4 billion a year and the station about $1 billion.
Firstly, if they are planning a manned Mars mission and a permanent lunar base, at the same time as phasing out the shuttle that means that they must be planning to invest in alternative launch technologies. That alone would be good news for the independent space sector. Secondly, knifing the ISS is not only sensible from a scientific viewpoint (it doesn't do much more than Mir and Skylab did) but also has the added benefit that because of the word 'international' in its name scuppering it will drive the usual suspects nuts! (Of course, in accordance with my prediction, they are already claiming that the Mars mission is about oil so they already are nuts, but you get the point).

Posted by Sir Francis  

Monday, January 12, 2004

We are the people of England, and we have not spoken yet
The backlash against the BBC's suspending of Robert Kilroy-Silk for his recent article about the Arab world seems to be enormous. Just have a look at this Sky 'have your say' page. [These things do tend to get edited over time without telling anyone but when I looked it was overwhelmingly on his side]. Beneath the Blairified, Islingtonised veneer, a more traditional England lives on - now if only the Tories could tap into it somehow. Best quote:

I have immigrated from Africa where free speech is not allowed to the UK where I thought you were allowed to say anything to anyone about anything. I don't necessarily agree with what was said but it's his view and he should be allowed to say it.
Yvette
N.b. For those readers outside the UK, who have been following this story, it should be pointed out that Free Speech is not dead in Britain. The definition of 'inciting racial hatred' is actually pretty strict, which is why after the police have wasted man hours and money better devoted to catching criminals on this, there will be a little reported decision "not to take the matter any further". That the police are 'investigating' at all is a testament to how badly they are run.

Posted by Sir Francis  

Zero-sum
The Hutton Enquiry is apparently about to disgorge its contents all over the news media (i.e. now would be a very good time to take a quick holiday) and from the events of last week the Tories are rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of hurting Blair. This is a catastrophic mistake.

The Conservative Party supported the War, and in spite of all the details for the political anoraks, all that Hutton is really about is the War. It is a zero sum game. A binning for Blair and the media story will become 'war was unjustified', and those who supported the war will be damaged. Worse, it will make it harder for us to join in any future major operations that might be coming down the pipeline for next year. Worse still, it will be used to inflict damage on President Bush.

Furthermore a bad result in this for Blair means a good result for the BBC - which is bad for the country and bad for the Conservative Party. Labour without Blair will be in trouble, but with the flagrant open bias of the modern BBC can look to hours of free advertising every dayof the next election campaign. On the other hand, if the Tories joined with Labour and blasted the BBC, the chances of a chastened BBC, in fear of its Charter toning down the bias are good. Blair will fall soon enough, over something else, but this is a one-off opportunity to get the BBC.

Posted by Sir Francis  

Friday, January 09, 2004

Immigration
There are an excellent series of posts about the Bush Immigration proposal on this site, which pretty well sum up my views on the matter. Follow the link and keep scrolling down.

Posted by Sir Francis  

Its all about the OIIILLLL!!!!!
How long before the antiwar whackos claim there must be oil on Mars?

UPDATE:
I was only joking when I wrote that. However, it seems nothing is beyond parody these days, because they are claiming the Mars project is about oil!

Posted by Sir Francis  

Oh goody
Am I the only one a little ticked off by the chirpy little headlines floating around like "Guantanamo Brits May Be Home 'In Weeks'"? They always sound so upbeat, but why exactly should that be a positive thing? Sorry, but I really don't have much sympathy for traitors picked up fighting alongside the Taliban. Oh wait, I have no sympathy at all. If they stayed at Camp Delta they'd get what they deserve; if they come to Britain they'll probably be released under the Human Rights Act. What a great achievment, eh? Despite Blair's undoubted political courage in going to war this issue is a reminder of why we need a Conservative Government that doesn't need to buy off its backbenches by importing terrorists.

Posted by Sir Francis  

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Good for Rummy!
It seems that Time's original choice for person of the year last month, was Donald Rumsfeld, and that he suggested that the men and women of the US Military deserved the honour more than he did. Yet another reason to like him.

Posted by Sir Francis  

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Miller Time
Sen. Zell Miller (D-GA) hits out at the leftists and incompetents who are destroying the Democratic Party. And he's taking no prisoners:

Al Sharpton did a pretty good impression of the "Godfather of Soul." Of course, the rotund reverend has long been the "Godfather of Con." He's slick as a peeled onion. In just one short primary season, his timid fellow candidates and the even more timid media have erased the criminal Tawana Brawley shakedown. They've given this trickster who has never been elected dogcatcher a legitimacy he does not deserve: their Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval as a bona fide presidential candidate. So, get ready to start counting Rev. Sharpton's delegates. They will be impossible to ignore on national TV when the Democrats take center stage in Boston. Memo to Democratic Chairman Terry McAwful: It's called "reaping what you sow."
Another quote:
...Howard Dean is a hard man to feel sorry for, he's just so cocky. But I'm feeling bad for him. He's worked hard to get where he is, including finding an honorable way to raise a lot of money. But there hasn't been a leader since Julius Caesar who's had more conspirators pretending to be his friend--but really wanting him dead--than suddenly Howard Dean has today. They want his Internet contributor list. They want his energy and spontaneity. They want his secret for tapping the young antiwar crowd. So they'll endorse him, pat him on the back with a few "atta boys," and secretly hope he loses.

I'm not sure what Al Gore will contribute. Is he going to advise Mr. Dean to roll down his shirtsleeves and put on a coat, preferably in earth tones? Will he teach him to speak in that stilted highfalutin way? Maybe he'll teach him how to win a Southern state. Like Tennessee.
Ouch. As they say, read the whole thing.

Posted by Sir Francis  

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Stop Press!
Peter Cuthbertson is reporting on the 1964 General Election Special they've been showing on BBC Parliament. Good stuff, and the vague bittersweet sensation of what might have been:

UPDATE III: Speaking of which, seeing Anthony "I'll abolish every f---ing grammar school in England" Crosland win in Grimsby with a majority of around 4,000 was strangely moving. It really is striking to think that if just a couple of thousand people had voted differently on that night some of the best schools anywhere in the world - and Britain's education system along with them - might not have been destroyed.

Posted by Sir Francis  

Welcome!
Well, I'm still dealing with a few teething problems - don't be surprised for instance if the banner refuses to load properly. However those should hopefully sort themselves out over the next day or so and some content will then start to appear here.

In the meantime, you might be wondering about the title. Well, there is a legend that if England is ever in peril, if you bang on Sir Francis Drake's drum, he will return to save her in her hour of need. Given the current assault on Anglosphere sovereignty and values by the likes of the EU, UN and other transnational progressives, it seemed an appropriate title. I'd also call attention to Newbolt's poem of the same name, which is reproduced on this site, but for those who don't want to scroll down, here it is again:


DRAKE he's in his hammock an' a thousand mile away,
(Capten, art tha sleepin' there below?)
Slung atween the round shot in Nombre Dios Bay,
An' dreamin' arl the time o' Plymouth Hoe.
Yarnder lumes the island, yarnder lie the ships,
Wi' sailor lads a-dancin' heel-an'-toe,
An' the shore-lights flashin', an' the night-tide dashin'
He sees et arl so plainly as he saw et long ago.

Drake he was a Devon man, an' ruled the Devon seas,
(Capten, art tha sleepin' there below?),
Rovin' tho' his death fell, he went wi' heart at ease,
An' dreamin' arl the time o' Plymouth Hoe,
"Take my drum to England, hang et by the shore,
Strike et when your powder's runnin' low;
If the Dons sight Devon, I'll quit the port o' Heaven,
An' drum them up the Channel as we drummed them long ago."

Drake he's in his hammock till the great Armadas come,
(Capten, art tha sleepin' there below?),
Slung atween the round shot, listenin' for the drum,
An' dreamin' arl the time o' Plymouth Hoe.
Call him on the deep sea, call him up the Sound,
Call him when ye sail to meet the foe;
Where the old trade's plyin' an' the old flag flyin',
They shall find him, ware an' wakin', as they found him long ago.

Posted by Sir Francis  


 

Drake's Drum

DRAKE he's in his hammock an' a thousand mile away, 
(Capten, art tha sleepin' there below?) 
Slung atween the round shot in Nombre Dios Bay, 
An' dreamin' arl the time o' Plymouth Hoe. 
Yarnder lumes the island, yarnder lie the ships, 
Wi' sailor lads a-dancin' heel-an'-toe, 
An' the shore-lights flashin', an' the night-tide dashin' 
He sees et arl so plainly as he saw et long ago. 

DRAKE he was a Devon man, an' ruled the Devon seas, 
(Capten, art tha sleepin' there below?), 
Rovin' tho' his death fell, he went wi' heart at ease, 
An' dreamin' arl the time o' Plymouth Hoe, 
"Take my drum to England, hang et by the shore, 
Strike et when your powder's runnin' low; 
If the Dons sight Devon, I'll quit the port o' Heaven, 
An' drum them up the Channel as we drummed them long ago." 

DRAKE he's in his hammock till the great Armadas come, 
(Capten, art tha sleepin' there below?), 
Slung atween the round shot, listenin' for the drum, 
An' dreamin' arl the time o' Plymouth Hoe. 
Call him on the deep sea, call him up the Sound, 
Call him when ye sail to meet the foe; 
Where the old trade's plyin' an' the old flag flyin', 
They shall find him, ware an' wakin', as they found him long ago. 

                                                                            Sir Henry Newbolt (1862-1938)

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