Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Taught by the state

It's nice to hear that the QCA wants to tell teachers how to do their job. Here they are telling British teachers to denigrate the effects of the British Empire on India. That's the key with undermining British culture. relentlessly pick away at it. Never let up. Just undermine, attack and misinform-constantly.

Of course it may still be better than asking students what a Roman legionary would have made of a 19th century cartoon.

Commitments up, funding steady for the British armed forces

This article by the BBC says it, the rest of the BBC and most of the UK ignore it.

Col Collins, who is retired, told the BBC: "Since 2000, before the war on terror officially began, the number of commitments that are facing the army have increased many times over.

"The spending is not keeping pace with what the government requires of the armed forces. It's actually shrinking in real terms."

He added that what Maj Gen Shirreff was highlighting was that "successive governments, in conjunction with senior officers who have collaborated in the reduction in the size of the armed forces, have left the armed forces extremely vulnerable".

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Merry Christmas

I've had a good break so far and intend to have some more! Posting will be light to non-existent until Jan 2nd!

The view from the other side

You should go to JOSHUAPUNDIT and read this piece about the state of the UK.

Tell the truth and shame the...BBC

The BBC's World Affairs correspondent clearly specialises in international adultery if the standard of this piece is anything to go by:
The British Prime Minister Tony Blair's attack on Iran as a "strategic challenge" raises the rhetoric in a war of words between Iran and the West that is escalating with the possibility of a worse confrontation to come.

A good start: `escalating with the possibility come.' So escalating means `not decreasing' then?
Speaking on Iran's doorstep ...

Impertinent swine!

...Mr Blair chose to single out Iran as he called for an "alliance of moderation in the region and outside of it to defeat the extremists".
How could he single out Iran? What have they done to deserve that?

Dumbing down by government decree

This is probably best out in the open. But it makes my flesh creep. Universities are different. Their qualities are different.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I have a cunning plan!

That's not King Julian, but MEP Gerard Batten and Sam Solomon.
Cal Thomas describes it in Jewish World Review:
The Charter calls upon Muslims to:
  • Respect non-Muslim religions and issue a fatwa (an Islamic religious decree) prohibiting the use of force, violence or threats to their followers.
  • Respect all civilizations, cultures and traditions and promote understanding of the precedence of national laws over Sharia law.
  • Respect Western freedoms, especially of belief and expression and prohibit violent reaction against people who make use of these freedoms.
  • Prohibit the issuing of any fatwa that would result in violence or threat against individuals or institutions.
  • Request Islamic institutions to revise and issue new interpretations of Qur'anic verses calling for Jihad and violence against non-Muslims.

Solomon says, "We call on organizations representing the Islamic faith … to endorse and sign this Charter as an example to all European Muslims." By doing so, they will make it clear that "Islam is a religion of peace … and that acts of terrorism committed in its name are the acts of misguided individuals who have misunderstood and misinterpreted its teaching."

There are very sensible suggestions about people who refuse to sign and those who lie.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The wisest fools in Christendom

When I was a student at university, the cleverest were supposed to covet a job at the FO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office).
Personally, I've always felt that the UK was very badly served by the vast majority of diplomats and officials. Generals are always feared to be fighting the last war, but British diplomats always seem to be trying to pull off the coups that their predecessors failed to.
This report from Chatham House's exiting director is a good case in point:
The Chatham House report said his legacy would be the "disaster" of Iraq and his failure to influence the US...
In his report, outgoing Chatham House director Victor Bulmer-Thomas said the Iraq invasion had been a "terrible mistake" and, along with the post war "debacle", had damaged the UK's global influence.

The FO is always, always courting the Arabs! It's a knee-jerk thing. Anybody who's spent a few hours listening to experts on the subject of the Middle East would suggest that if you really want to do it, there's no way except by being extremely tough on dictatorial regimes in the region (which seems to be most of them - with the exception of Israel). Of course, this won't make you any friends, but it will garner you some respect. And might even cut down the terrorism a little.

But that's not what the FO has ever meant. Deal with nasty grubby individuals? Oh no! We want to court the oligarchs and the dictators. They're the ones who control the flow of oil and suppress the Muslim Brotherhood.

The UK's been trying this tack for 65 years now (at least). It doesn't work. That's obvious.
At least Tony Blair tried something different. And that's why all the bureaucrats hate him.

Dame Pauline Neville-Jones is another idiot.

Here's the first part of the summary from her report to the Conservative Party:
The attacks of 9/11 were a warning but it was only on July 7th 2005 that the UK was forced to come face to face with the true scale and danger of the security threat. The fact that the bombers were born in Britain shocked us into realising the connection between security and community cohesion. The fact that the bombers were radicalised in part by events outside the United Kingdom forced us to recognise that foreign affairs have become domestic affairs.

Again and again, despite John Howard's fisking of this whole fallacy, British politicians and civil servants make the link between foreign policy and domestic terrorism. It isn't there! They want to destroy us and what we do is just used as a pretext.

A word to the wise

So, the German Protestant Church(es) have something to say about Islam, and it's not entirely welcoming:
If a Muslim applicant for a training activity wants to wear a head cloth at public schools with reference to freedom of religion in the service, this behavior justifies doubts about her suitability — in view of the meaning of the head cloth in Islam — as a teacher in a national school.

There's a lot more.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Are we complaining?

No, but this certainly smacks of incompetence:

More than half a million have arrived from Poland and other countries since 2004, far more than the Home Office prediction of about 13,000.

The Financial Times speaks (utter rubbish)

I remember, not very long ago, when my wife and I agreed that the FT was probably the best newspaper. It wasn't that it wasn't biased [we agreed that every paper was biased], it was that the bias was clear and easy to filter out, since the bias was merely `money'.

I'm afraid that this is no longer so. Here's a fantastic example of disinformation from the once great FT (talking about Ahmedinejad's Holocaust denying conference):
"..They give the impression that anti-Jewish bigotry is widespread across the Muslim world. In historical reality, anti-Semitism is a Christian disease. There is no trace of it in Persia's Shahnameh or Book of Kings, while the Koran enjoins believers to respect Jews and Christians as monotheist People of the Book, sharing the common legacy of Abraham.";

and here's the fisking from Moonbattery. One quote from the Koran and one from Ayaan Hirsi Ali will suffice:
And thou seest [Jews and Christians] vying one with another in sin and transgression and their devouring of illicit gain. Verily evil is what they do. Why do not the rabbis and the priests forbid their evilspeaking and their devouring of illicit gain? .... evil is their handiwork. [Surah V, v. 62, 63]
With great conviction, my half-sister cried: "It's a lie! Jews have a way of blinding people. They were not killed, gassed or massacred. But I pray to Allah that one day all the Jews in the world will be destroyed."

She was not saying anything new. As a child growing up in Saudi Arabia, I remember my teachers, my mom and our neighbors telling us practically on a daily basis that Jews are evil, the sworn enemies of Muslims, and that their only goal was to destroy Islam. We were never informed about the Holocaust.


Farewell Greenpeace

I've just resigned my membership of Greenpeace.
Why, you may ask, did you join?
Because I thought that, on balance they were a force for good in a predatory and over-politicised world.
Then, like any other direct-debit membership, it's very easy to let things slide after you realise that you've made a mistake.
I meant to resign last year and (I think) the year before, but somehow it just didn't happen.
I had an interesting discussion about climate change when I did finally 'phone them to cancel my membership. It went like this:

"I want to resign because I'm appalled by your campaign on climate change".
"But we've been doing it for years"
"It's your recent comments and tactics which have revealed you as totally biased"
"We just say what the intergovernmental panel on climate change says."
"But they don't know any statistics"
"This sort of stuff is based on interpreting very ambiguous data; to do that you need expert statisticians to at least help the `scientists'. None of this climate change stuff has been done by statisticians. The chairman of the American Statistical Association said in his report on the hockey-stick not only that the UN’s 2001 temperature reconstruction "had used inappropriate statistical methods and data" but also that many of the supporting scientific papers, both before and after the 2001 report, had been "written by a small and closely-connected group of palaeoclimatologists, who effectively dominated their field worldwide, and were all intimately linked to the principal author of the UN’s 2001 graph."
"Well, we trust the IPCC".

So there you go. It's like shopping for pears. Pick the ones you like the look of. If they're rotten inside, well that's too bad

Sunday, December 17, 2006

When thinking about Iraq, this might help

All that talk about "liberation" twenty, thirty years ago, all the plotting, all the bodies, produced this, this impoverished broken-down country led by a gang of cruel and paternalistic half-educated theorists.

-- Vietcong General Pham Xuan An

RFID- really foolish idiotic device?

As I said before, this new ePassport is awful. It must be if even the statist and controlling BBC has caught on to the problems:

"Nearly every country issuing this passport has a few security experts who are yelling at the top of their lungs and trying to shout out: 'This is not secure. This is not a good idea to use this technology'"...

"There are lots of technical flaws in it and there are things that have just been forgotten, so it is basically not doing what it is supposed to do. It is supposed to get a higher security level. It is not," he said.
A European Union funded network of IT security experts has also come out against the ePassport scheme.


Researchers working within the Future of Identity in the Information Society (FIDIS) network say European governments have forced a document on its citizens that dramatically decreases security and increases the risk of identity theft.

RFID chips can be read at a short distance and tracked without their owner's knowledge, while the key to unlocking the passport's chip consists of details actually printed on the passport itself.

It is almost like writing your pin number on the back of your cashpoint card.

"The basic access control mechanism works based on information like the number of the passport, the name of the passport holder, the date of birth and then other data which are simply readable by anyone who looks on the passport," said Professor Kai Rannenberg of Frankfurt University.

"If you have that information and put the respective software into the reader, the reader can overcome the basic access control of the passport."

The experts say it is not too late to roll back and rethink the ePassport.

If not, the danger is obvious - that a scheme, the declared aim of which is to increase our security, could well do the exact opposite.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

2006: a cold year

Here's a fun post with some information for climate change waverers.

What I think the people who really care about climate change should do is to stop talking. All that CO2 must be causing harm.

The project continues.

EU Referendum says that they're trying to resurrect the EU constitution.
I can't decide whether I'd like to see them try and fail miserably or whether I shoudl hope they don't try.
Just look at their (Zapatero and Juncker) photo. My goodness, but they look shifty.

Terror incognita

I don't know much about military matters. But this report from Robert Fox is worrying since it seems to represent a serious divergence of military opinion between the UK and the USA in Afghanistan and Iraq. That's always a very bad sign, when allies disagree about tactics.

Decadence? What crisis?

I must be getting very old. To have said what Peregrine Worsthorne is saying, before he did, is quite remarkable to me.

Liquid votes?

I always thought the liquid explosive thing back in August was a bit far-fetched. Now the First Post is suggesting that the whole thing was highly ramped by anti-libertarian, vote-seeking New Labour robopoliticians.
As a private citizen (what other kind is there?), it's very hard to tell who's right. The information just isn't there, although in this case the internet sources seem fairly clear that this stuff is not do-able.
Most of us don't know, though, and the politicians are the most `don't know' of all. But they make the laws so when all liberty is gone, we'll know who to blame.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Briefly considered links

War of the Worlds in Belgium, anyone?
The BBC loses out to Al-Jazeera.
Want to read total paranoia about climate change. Try this Blog of Note. I can't help feeling that the title is perfectly chosen, but not quite what the author has in mind (it's called A Few Things Ill Considered).
Kofi Annan's real retirement speech (not).
A photocatalytic, air-pollution reducing cement!
Could there be a link between these and this elephant? I think we should be told.
The president of Somalia is not hopeful.
Things are not happening in Pakistan.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Benighted, Biased, Cretins?

Just a quick reality check.

The BBC is based in the UK, yes?
The established religion in the UK is Christianity, yes?
The Old Testament is part of the Christian Bible, yes?
In it, we get the story of Abraham and Isaac, yes?
So where does this stuff about
"the Festival of Sacrifice, marking the prophet Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son when God ordered him to"

come from?
It's all a `light-hearted' story of camel-sacrifice at Turkish Airlines; done with a stock picture of a camel and a caption:`Some say camel meat tastes like 'coarse beef'.
It's the (now usual) carelessness we've come to expect from the Beeb. No context. No `this is the Muslim version of the Christian/Jewish Abraham'. Probably they didn't know. They certainly couldn't be bothered to check.

Like their inability to interrogate climate scientists on air (`one of our models predicted ice melt at the pole by 2050' translated without query into `prediction: no ice at North Pole by 2050'). Speaking as a scientist (sort of) , I find the lack of care and integrity by the scientists only matched by the lack of care and integrity by the journalists.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

al-Jazeera defines the Palestinian problem: Arabs are ashamed of being beaten

JOSHUAPUNDIT has a translation of an interview (by Pierre Heumann of the Swiss weekly Die Weltwoche) of al-Jazeerah's chief editor, Ahmed Sheikh. Go there for the full thing, but this bit (even without the rest) reveals the mindboggling fallacy of regarding this organ as a purveyor of objective unbiased reporting.

...Do you mean to say that if Israel did not exist, there would suddenly be democracy in Egypt, that the schools in Morocco would be better, that the public clinics in Jordan would function better?

I think so.

Can you please explain to me what the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has to do with these problems?

The Palestinian cause is central for Arab thinking.

In the end, is it a matter of feelings of self-esteem?

Exactly. It's because we always lose to Israel. It gnaws at the people in the Middle East that such a small country as Israel, with only about 7 million inhabitants, can defeat the Arab nation with its 350 million. That hurts our collective ego. The Palestinian problem is in the genes of every Arab. The West's problem is that it does not understand this.
So. There you have it. In a nutshell. According to the most influential opinion former in the Arab world. The Palestinian problem is that 350 million Arabs can't defeat 7 million Israelis. Forget the refugees. Forget the land. Forget everything except the fact that the Arabs can't defeat the Israelis. This is the explanation for the whole sorry mess. `If we can't beat them we mope and cry and achieve nothing'. 350 million seven year olds. Would that someone could gently but firmly explain to them that their culture is at fault.
I have only one suggestion for them, an old prescription from Western culture: if you can't beat them, join them.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Identity theft? Yes, please!

The website/ campaign No2ID has a delightful entry about identity theft (entitled HOME OFFICE: PASSPORT INSECURITY "DOESN'T MATTER"):

The assessment of EU information society 'Network of Excellence' FIDIS is rather more realistic and appropriate. Its recent Budapest declaration clearly states that "by failing to implement an appropriate security architecture" the UK and other European governments have "dramatically decreased [citizens'] security and privacy and increased risk of identity theft".

Even more surprisingly, the draft summary of a US Department of Homeland Security report says that RFID (the chip technology in the passport) "increases risks to personal privacy and security, with no commensurate benefit for performance or national security." This, from the very government that has halted implementation of RFID technology in its own passports, despite insisting that our government foist it upon us.

Reading matters- a lot

I did say this before.

The Every Child a Reader scheme could offer a return of more than £17 in the next 31 years for every £1 spent now.

The KPMG study said pupils who left primary schools in England and Wales with poor reading skills could go on to cost between £1.7bn and £2bn a year.

It's nice to see that some accountants agree with me. Perhaps the accountancy-obsessed NuLabour might actually do something now?

Funny ha ha or funny peculiar?

Iain Duncan Smith's report on social justice (social justice delayed is social justice denied?) makes the obvious point that a large portion of the problems of `deprivation' are nothing to do with it. They're instead the result of an "increasingly dysfunctional society" which breeds criminality. In particular, it "paints a gloomy picture of a society where for some family breakdown, drug and alcohol abuse, debt and failure in education combine".
Amazingly enough,
`One of the main problems identified by Mr Duncan Smith is a growing number of co-habiting couples who split up while their children are young.'
He then completely overdoes it by claiming that
"Families matter because almost every social problem that we face comes down to family stability."

No Iain, many of the social problems we face come down to a complete lack of any functioning morality. A significant proportion of our population are sociopathic. The failure of the family is part of the cause, but it's the failure of society and politicians to provide any example that finishes things off.

That's why `the Work and Pensions secretary John Hutton said it sounded like the Conservatives were going "back to basics again" and talking about Victorian values. He said it was "nonsense" to suggest that tweaking the tax system could lead to families staying together, saying that had been tried in past decades which saw divorce rates "go through the roof".

Hutton doesn't get it either, of course, but this failure is why he can get away with what he says. That, and the desire by an increasing powerful minority to do down the family as an institution which might get in the way of their own "lifestyle choices".

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Curd Cheese (Restriction on Placing on the Market) Regulations 2006 - a very unassuming name for tyranny

Having thought I wouldn't, I'm posting the link to Booker's article on this disgusting performance by the EU and the UK. It revolts me.
Here's the end of the article:

Never before, it is believed, has a statutory instrument been issued in Britain directed at closing down a single named company (breaching the ancient principle of British law that "the law must be blind", i.e. it must be general in application, not directed at any specific individual or body).

When Lord Willoughby de Broke recounted this chilling story last week, eloquently supported by others, including Lord Greaves, a Lib Dem who lives near Mr Wright's plant, peers were visibly horrified. The only defence that Lord Warner, as junior health minister, could muster (apart from seriously misrepresenting the terms of Vesterdorf's judgment) was to plead that failure to implement the commission's decision "would constitute a serious breach of the UK's obligations under the EC Treaty". For truth, justice, the rule of law and Britain it was a black day.

I append a link to the 6 December House of Lords debate: here, and a link to the entry in Hansard (7 Nov.): here. Here's the deeply midleading press statement from the EU>

Our scared liberties

OK. This is all due to Samizdata, but I have to give the quotation:

Let us consider, my lords, that arbitrary power has seldom or never been introduced into any country at once. It must be introduced by slow degrees, and as it were step by step, lest the people should see its approach. The barriers and fences of the people's liberty must be plucked up one by one, and some plausible pretences must be found for removing or hoodwinking, one after another, those sentries who are posted by the constitution of a free country, for warning the people of their danger. When these preparatory steps are once made, the people may then, indeed, with regret, see slavery and arbitrary power making long strides over their land; but it will be too late to think of preventing or avoiding the impending ruin.

- Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, to the House of Lords in 1737

Go there and read the comments too.
You might read my earlier comments about data feudalism.

A very good speech

I shan't say much else. Here's a link to Gates of Vienna which has most of Senator Santorum's farewell speech. Here's a little snippet:
...Our troops in Iraq are being killed by Iranian weapons today paid for with Iranian money smuggled into Iraq by Iranian logistics and utilized by Iranian-trained terrorists.

A couple of years ago you needed a security clearance to know this. Now, if you care to know, if you want to know this uncomfortable truth about Iran, you can know it. Iran is the centerpiece in the assault against us and other countries in the civilized world, which is why I fought so hard for passage of the Iran Freedom and Support Act...

I'm always stunned by the wilful ignorance of such things by my peers, but worse still is the suggestion that we (the US and UK) negot
iate with these people about Iraq. It leaves me stunned.
The oh so sophisticated `realistic approach' leaves me openmouthed.

Stay calm, very calm

Great news from the (UK) Environment Agency:
Traces of the antidepressant Prozac can be found in the nation's drinking water, it has been revealed.

An Environment Agency report suggests so many people are taking the drug nowadays it is building up in rivers and groundwater.

A report in Sunday's Observer says the government's environment watchdog has discussed the impact for human health.

A spokesman for the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) said the Prozac found was most likely highly diluted.

...The Environment Agency report concluded that the Prozac in the water table could be potentially toxic and said the drug was a "potential concern".

The exact amount of Prozac in the nation's drinking water is not known.

Isn't that grand? It's even better than bromide in the tea. One wonders if some ministers are now cursing that this news has come out.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Data feudalism and a hidden cost of an overbearing state

I was talking with one of my colleagues the other day: she's a medical statistician. She was justly pointing out the enormous cost of being required to obtain informed consent in statistical analyses of medical data.
The modern requirement is that, nearly always, one must obtain "informed consent" in order to include a patient in a study, even when such a study is merely follow-up, i.e. no experimentation will take place. The "cost" may be monetary in that the data is there but permission must be granted else the data will be destroyed (and the cost in man hours to obtain consent may be very large) or it may instead be the case that there is such a selection bias in the granting of consent (think of stroke victims, for example, where the most severely affected are unable to give consent) that the resulting data is so skewed as to be useless.
She felt very strongly that the impact on public health was intolerable.

Now I am not doctrinaire when it comes to the state: I feel it has its uses, and one of the most important (which tends to be forgotten) is in the area of public health. Most of the advances in human longevity stem not from medicine but from activities in the realm of public health. Inoculation is the one everyone will name, but I would go for clean water and sewerage. When everyone was fussing about Paula Radcliffe being caught short in the London marathon, I was shocked that she hadn't been arrested for defecating on the Public Highway.
But I digress. My point is that Public Health is an important state activity and I share my colleague's distress.
However, the state has brought it upon itself in my opinion.
Could one rely upon the British state to treat our personal data with circumspection, one might accept the absence of consent. Most of us would have forty years ago, I think.
But now we need to fight it all the way.
Why? Because the state sees our data as its property. MPs, the EU and the legal system constantly seek to share it far and wide.
Forty years ago the Inland Revenue was under tremendous constraints to keep our financial data private. It wasn't allowed to share that data with other government departments. Now it's a fast track to ministerial promotion to suggest ways to share our data with every Tom, Dick or identity thief. Even if ministers don't want to do it, the courts will. I think of the breach of trust that occurred over sperm donors. They were promised anonymity, come what may and then the courts turned 'round and said the rights of the child to know their biological parents overrode any commitments made to the donors. The courts have, moreover, failed to make the police destroy DNA and fingerprints taken from all those arrested, even where they weren't charged, let alone convicted.

The state increasingly seeks to own us by owning our data and it's essential that we fight it lest worse befall. It took about five years for the Nazis to take over in Germany. I wouldn't want them holding all my biometric data, would you?

Do I look funny in this?

A link, kindly sent me by Freedom Fighter of JOSHUAPUNDIT, to an article by Christopher Hitchens.
Here's a chunk:
Why are men, taken on average and as a whole, funnier than women? Well, for one thing, they had damn well better be. The chief task in life that a man has to perform is that of impressing the opposite sex, and Mother Nature (as we laughingly call her) is not so kind to men. In fact, she equips many fellows with very little armament for the struggle. An average man has just one, outside chance: he had better be able to make the lady laugh. Making them laugh has been one of the crucial preoccupations of my life. If you can stimulate her to laughter—I am talking about that real, out-loud, head-back, mouth-open-to-expose-the-full-horseshoe-of-lovely-teeth, involuntary, full, and deep-throated mirth; the kind that is accompanied by a shocked surprise and a slight (no, make that a loud) peal of delight—well, then, you have at least caused her to loosen up and to change her expression. I shall not elaborate further. Women have no corresponding need to appeal to men in this way. They already appeal to men, if you catch my drift.

Like nearly all writing about humour, it is regrettably unfunny. Hitchens enlivens the article with a little, and quotes some jokes but, of course, dissection is never amusing, unless you have the scatological sense of humour of the average medical student.

Is the thesis right? Quite possibly. But I have some trouble with it as I grew up with some very funny women. One of my sisters is such a good mimic that one would occasionally swear that she'd been abducted by aliens and substituted by a shape-changer. It was a source both of vast amusement and of great terror to walk with her down a suburban street. One would would never know when one would be accompanied by a drooling idiot, or someone with an extreme, dragging limp, a man with a dewdrop or a veiled (sleeve) and respectable Hindu lady.

Perhaps, no, probably, women are not so good at the joke, the one- or several liner. But the interplay of humour and seriousness in a conversation is perhaps better practised by them than by men. Much of my childhood was spent in the company only of older women. It was a time that I remember as full of humour. Maybe women joke very differently without the presence of men?

I was going to make a list of funny women, but I realised it would be never-ending. Let me accept instead, that in terms of motivation, Mr Hitchens may be half right.

Now I want to quote some of my favourites:
Linda Smith on Erith (where she was born): "it isn't twinned with anywhere but it does have a suicide pact with Dagenham". She also described the privatised rail service as a `series of scenes from Doctor Zhivago, with parents desperately passing their children on to crowded trains in the hope the odd one might make it.'

Joyce Grenfell: she originated the only catchphrase I have ever found funny, because it was only ever deployed realistically (as a fraught nursery teacher, whilst in the midst of doing something else): `George, don't do that!'

Dorthy Parker: "If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn't be a bit surprised";
"Brevity is the soul of lingerie" and finally,
"This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

What a wonderful rant

Do you feel that your MP is up to scratch? Do you want to make them feel appreciated? Then don't read this post by EU Referendum. It's a glorious rant. Here's a snippet:
What is it you do, ladies and gentlemen that would justify yet another pay rise? Do you legislate? Well, not in the eighty per cent of the legislation that comes, one way or another from the European Union and is passed on the nod because you do not have the right to reject or amend it. Let’s face it, you do not even bother to read most of it. There is a lot of material there, I agree, but it is you and your equally greedy predecessors, who made sure of this state of affairs.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Violent shock horror.

Amazing! What a surprise:
Violent video games leave a harmful fingerprint on the brains of young teenagers, scientists have found.

The anti-censorship lobby have denied this sort of thing forever. No doubt they'll deny it again. I often wonder if they've ever seriously engaged with a teenager. If you do, this sort of thing is immediately obvious. As is the fact that smoking marijuana stupefies them. It's not so obvious that the effects are permanent. But what the hell, if the rhetoric required to allow middle-aged trendies to get stoned in peace has a deleterious effect on the young then f**k 'em. The baby-boomers' freedoms are all that really matter, aren't they?

You will love Big Brother!

How wonderful that Tony Blair continues to desecrate the legacy of his namesake, Eric! Apparently, according to EU Referendum, he's ordering an enormous... I was going to say propaganda, but I truly think this qualifies as disinformation...blitz in favour of the EU.
include banning ministers and officials from referring to unpopular EU institutions like the European Commission, places such as Brussels and Strasbourg, the euro currency, terms like "Eurocrat" and "EU directive" and controversial policies such as the Common Agricultural Policy and the EU constitution. The ban would also extend, it would seem, to avoiding any mention of inconvenient facts, such as the EU requiring the UK to approve GM trials.

Instead ministers and officals have been ordered to try to promote the "EU brand" by linking to popular European events and institutions such as the Eurovision song contest, the Cannes Film Festival and the UEFA soccer organisation that runs the Champions League tournament - even though none of them has anything to do with the EU.
If the BBC had any guts and spark, their interviewers would spend a lot of effort in getting ministers to break these strictures. However, as EU Referndum has repeatedly pointed out, most of them don't have any idea what's going on anyway.

I see the boot coming down, I'd just never realised it was going to be a gold open-toed one.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A little unpleasantness

Occasionally something comes along which reminds me why I find New Labour one of the more despicable of the many nasty phenomena of the 20th Century.

This is one of them.

Perry de Haviland, at Samizdata, recounts the ministerial quote about Russia and the polonium poisoning affair: `They are too important for us to fall out with them over this.'
I've made my comment over at Samizdata, but honestly, how can we tolerate such people in power over us? `The state is not your friend' is one of Samizdata' catchphrases, but in this case it needs to be strengthened to `sometimes the state is the citizen's enemy and this is one of those sometimes'.
I particularly appreciate Saint Tony being present and not saying anything about this remark.
It's good to know our Prime Minister approves of the sentiment.

Take care in the community.

A quick check shows that there were 765 homicides in England and Wales in 2005/06 (April-March).
Turning to the BBC's preview of the Appleby report:
249 people have been killed by psychiatric patients released into the community over the last five years. So that's (if we average) 1 in 15 murders (c50 per year) committed by a released psychiatric patient.
Turning to the Home Office Statistical Bulletins:the average two year reoffending rate for those commiting crimes of violence is about 46%.

As shown in Figure 8, p9 of Re-offending of adults: results from the 2003 cohort, re-offending rates are lower among offenders discharged from a custodial sentence of at least a year (49 per cent) than among those discharged from a shorter custodial sentence (70 per cent). Some offender characteristics of those discharged from longer custodial sentences are associated with lower re-offending, including being older, having fewer previous convictions, and the offence types they were convicted for.
Disentangling the effect on re-offending of offender characteristics and the effect of the
disposal itself is difficult. One approach is to examine the difference between the actual rate
of re-offending and the predicted rate of re-offending, which is calculated solely using
offender characteristics. This suggests that custodial sentences of at least a year are more
effective in reducing re-offending. However, more detailed analysis is required to fully answer
this question and a research programme to that effect is currently being carried out.
Back to the report.

The report, entitled Avoidable Deaths, will reveal that one in six deaths were blamed on the failure to ensure patients took their medication properly.

So, does incarceration reduce crime?
I think so. But I'll have to work at this a bit harder. In the meanwhile I'll refer you back to what I said a few days ago (with apologies for the repetition).
Preamble. We on the right tend to believe in the imperfection of man. We don't believe (with Rousseau) in the noble savage (if he did), indeed we believe that, along with his life, he himself was probably nasty, brutish and short. We note with no surprise whatsoever that some modern archeology has estimated that in the past 25% of males died at the hands of others. We are not in the least taken aback to learn that "the great majority of Aboriginal people themselves are voting with their feet and assimilating into white society." In short, we think that civilization can do better.
I should add that Dalrymple writes very well about this (did I say he's good?)...
First main point. How is man improved from his state of innocent imperfection? By teaching, training, example and punishment.
We learn to care for others and treat them with respect by a mixture of experience (I banged my head, it hurt), observation (when I pinch little Jemima, she hurts like me), punishment (I hit little Jemima and I was smacked) and example (Jemima forebore to hit me and got a sweet). Much of this was (in the past) provided by good, or even fairly average parents. They were strongly encouraged in this task by society's approbation, encouragement and the threat of sanction.
The Golden Rule was commonly taught and widely understood as a recipe for a good society.

Second point. Where parents and the immediate environment fail, and occasionally they will, the wider society needs to be seen to step in. A process must be initiated which will rigorously attempt to establish the facts [and it's not a game]. If a transgression is established to have taken place then the process must impose punishment.
The purpose of punishment is threefold: to signal to the individual society's disapproval; to signal to society the fact that transgression will not go unpunished; to exact retribution and enable the individual to regard the transgression as "spent" so that they may be rehabilitated. In the interests of these purposes, other consideration of circumstances must take place and should affect the level and nature of the punishment.

Third point. It's much easier and more effective to run such a system with very limited chances to be `let off'. I.e. at most one warning should be given before a full punishment takes place and even minor transgressions need to be noticed else more serious ones will follow. In the language of parenting, "we need clear boundaries, which are firmly adhered to".

Fourth point. No system is perfect. We say with Flaubert [for we never despise wisdom, whatever the source] "perfection is the enemy of the good". Thus, to spell it out for the dullards, society will fail (if you like to put it that way). Some people will become hardened in their wickedness whom a different system might have saved. We accept this as the cost of imperfection. The alternative costs are even worse since they will penalise the innocent.

Final point. Look around you. Do you see any of this sort of thing happening? No, we see someone with 102 convictions being considered for parole rather than being required to serve his whole sentence. We see the prison population climbing fast in the UK despite more and more attempts to restrict imprisonment to fewer and fewer crimes (recorded crime 1 per 360 individuals per annum in 1921, 1 per 10 individuals per annum in 2001; 1 in 3,400 in prison in 1921, 1 in 850 in prison in 1999).

This last is a common phenomenon across Western civilization. And this Theodore Dalrymple has written a lot about (did I say he has a beautiful prose style?). This is what is available to anyone with a brain, the power of observation and the courage to believe that their current perfection may not be entirely due to their own efforts or the state of [no doubt secular] grace in which they were born.

Enough already.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Goodbye, Mr Chips

What I had intended to do with the excerpts below was to provide a lot of commentary. On reflection I'm tempted just to write "swine, swine" and leave it at that. When I contemplate how politicians are happy to play with the education of millions it alternately makes me want to weep and to gnash my teeth. They just don't care.
Here we have a society where many are condemned to the underclass by virtue of birth and peer pressure whilst the left -wingers mouth their pious platitudes about `no school left unturned', `no child spared' and move into the right catchment area or send their children to private school.

The man from the BBC is just as bad. He's happy to talk about `little progress in changing the structures' and `school reforms' without the least bit of questioning of that New Labour packaging. He doesn't name and shame the ideologues from the Labour party who would rather see the equality of the gutter than the flourishing of the best.

In short, they make me sick.

I teach the products of this nearly gutted system in what is supposed to be a first class University. I meet students who never learn anything, because they've been taught not to, people who think looking other people's work up on the Internet is `research', mathematicians (all with grade A's at A level) who reach for a calculator to multiply .4 by .6. Able students who've been crippled by the pablum of bland mediocrity that's been served to them at school.

Anyway, I'll stop before I start frothing at the mouth.

Here's Tony ...

10 years after saying his three priorities were "education, education and education", Tony Blair still does not see his education reforms as complete.

closer examination revealed a sense of regret that he has not achieved more with his school reforms over the past decade.

He also sounded what seemed like a note of anxiety about the permanency of the reforms and a desire to embed the latest changes before he leaves Downing Street.

Ten years may seem a long time in politics but many of the reforms remain partial and unfinished...

Mr Blair hinted strongly at one of his main regrets when, looking back at the early years of his government, he said: "over time, I shifted from saying 'it's standards not structures' to realising that school structures could affect standards".

Certainly the phrase "standards not structures" became a mantra during Blair's first term in office, from 1997 to 2001.

This was mainly because of Labour's determination not to become mired in debates about the abolition of grammar schools or the ending of grant maintained status.

So those first years saw little progress in changing the structures of secondary education.

[Estelle Morris] believes there was "a capacity problem in the DfES (Department for Education and Skills)".

"We had some very good people in the civil service but not in depth."

In characteristically honest fashion, she adds that "we did not have all the answers politically either".

A much tougher judgement on the Blair years comes from Chris Woodhead, who was chief inspector of schools in England during Blair's first term.

"What Blair wanted to do - ensure greater parental choice, diversity and to challenge the educational establishment - was absolutely right," says Woodhead, who is now professor of education at Buckingham University.

However, he adds, Blair "has not delivered on any of that".

He believes the failure of the Blair school reforms was down to the prime minister's "political difficulties" with his own party and his failure to dig down into the detail of education policy.

While Estelle Morris believes there has been a real change in the culture of schools, and particularly in the quality of teaching, Chris Woodhead argues that Labour failed because it did not deliver the freedoms that schools needed.

...successive Labour and Conservative governments supported the shift from the tri-partite system of grammar, technical and secondary modern schools towards a single comprehensive.

They also supported the merging of different exam routes - the O-level and the CSE - into a single exam for all, the GCSE.

These changes were implemented in the name of social equity and as a reaction to a system that was regarded as writing off the majority of young people from an early age.

At first, Blair's government continued the trend towards uniformity: with more central direction and over-arching national targets for all children and all schools.

But latterly he has been more persuaded of the need for different routes for different pupils.

So we have seen, once again, a proliferation of school types and the end of the "monolithic comprehensive".

Now Blair is arguing that the interests of social equity no longer require a single route for all young people.

His espousal of "personalised education" means that "equal, but different" is his way forward.

...if Blair's successors do continue in the same direction, the challenge will be to ensure the different pathways through education are equally valued and not sorted into class-based, rigid hierarchies.

Or, as George Orwell might have put it, will some qualifications be "more equal than others"?

We wouldn't want that, would we? Class-based, rigid hierarchies - nasty, filthy stuff.
Nobody stops to wonder where the class-based bit comes from or whether a hierarchy (rigid or flaccid) might be based on something like ability. That would be more thought-crime after all.

To quote Kipling (The Children) out of context:
...Our statecraft, our learning
Delivered them bound to the Pit...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Youngish lefty attacks ageing lefty

From the BBC, first there was this:

Earlier this week the mayor of London [Red Ken] boycotted an event organised by Mr Phillips, head of the Commission for Racial Equality, as part of an ongoing row...

He recently suggested Mr Phillips, who said that the term multiculturalism implied "separateness" and should be dropped, had "gone so far over to the other side that I expect soon he'll be joining the BNP".

Then, there was this:

On Wednesday, in a speech to the Ethnic Media conference, Mr Cameron said "any serious conversation" about racism must move beyond "old Marxist clich├ęs".
Mr Cameron said: "Insulting Trevor by saying he should join the BNP isn't a serious contribution to debate.
It's a discreditable attempt by an ageing far left politician to hang on to a narrative about race that sees people from ethnic minorities as potential agents of revolutionary change."

It's a classic dominance display. David Attenborough would be proud of him. I particularly liked "isn't a serious contribution to debate". I sincerely doubt whether David Webcam would recognise either a `serious contribution' or a `debate' if it turned 'round and bit him.

Where this all leaves `Trevor' is not quite clear.

Darfur? Where's Darfur?

JOSHUAPUNDIT has an important new post on the sickening and under-reported genocide in Darfur: it seems that the president of Sudan is now denying that there's any problem and simultaneously blaming it on the Jews!
Remember when the UN's Kofi Annan was preening himself a little while ago over a supposed agreement with Sudan's jihadi government to accept a UN/ African Union force to protect Darfur's civilians from genocide?

Well, it seems that's Mr. Annan's self-congratulation was a mite premature. Al-Reuters reports today that not only isn't the President al-Bashir going to allow any UN or AU troops in, but now he denies there's any problem!

What's more, Darfur is just a Zionist Conspiracy anyway.

Read the rest. Please.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Can we riot now?

A very funny little post with this title awaits you at Rhymes With Right.

No hard feelings?

Yet another example of poor quality reporting from the MSM:
An e-mail showing a man being decapitated has resulted in 140 Hertfordshire police officers and civilian staff being disciplined.

The e-mail is supposed to have originated in the USA:
The e-mail, originating from the US, shows a black man being decapitated on railings after a pursuit by police.

The next bit seems to be a major non-sequitur:

A senior officer said the image could be perceived as racist and offensive.

The series of images, which show the pursued man being decapitated after jumping from a flyover, is entitled "Do not run from the police".

The objection seems to be based on the fact that the poor man was black:

Eight police sergeants were given formal reprimands and seven civilian supervisors received final written warnings for distributing the message...

Deputy Chief Constable Simon Ash said: "I am disappointed by the conduct of officers and staff who distributed this inappropriate image that some people may have perceived as being racist."

OK? It may have been perceived as being racist.

President of the Black Police Association Keith Jarrett said disciplinary action should have gone further.

"I don't think a robust enough sanction has been taken against the officers concerned, especially the supervisory ones," he said.

"It is, at best, disrespectful to the black people that live in Hertfordshire."

Now that, I really don't understand: why? Why just Hertfordshire? What is it, whisper it, at worst?
Disrepectful to the people in New Hampshire?

What am I missing here? What have the damn MSM failed to tell us?

I can see the objection that the man (a thief?) should not have his disjecta membra used as some sort of trivialised object lesson - although this is the modern way. Die, for example, of an overdose and your mother agrees to a picture of your corpse being used in anti-drugs advertisements for, I hasten to add, the best of motives. I personally think that it is objectionable to use the picture of someone who died by misadventure for any purpose, unless their family have agreed to it. But that doesn't seem to be the issue. The issue is (or is it?) just that he's black.

The only explanation that I can advance (and I strongly suspect that it's the right one) is that it's the old (well, relatively new) `it's all about perceptions' ploy: if I feel harassed then I have been. If I feel victimised, then I have been. If I feel it's racist to show a picture of a dead black fugitive, then it is.

What no-one seems to question, is whether it's feasible to run a society on this basis.

For what it's worth, I have a simple answer to the question. We know it's possible to run a society on this basis, because Stalin did. Orwell re-interpreted it in 1984.
What we have here is clearly a nasty case of thought crime.

Get used to it. Britain's full of it now.

UPDATE: I have now tracked down a blog post from Rivrdog containing the photos. I don't recommend looking at them, they're unpleasant (and I wish I hadn't).

Monday, November 27, 2006

Herculean task

Richard Landes at Augean Stables has a lovely and well-thought out posting on this topic (the problem of radicalized Muslims):
HDS Greenway, who is one of the Boston Globe’s resident Liberal Cognitive Egocentrists, has tackled the problem of radicalized Muslims in the Britain with predictable results.
Greenway quotes the head of MI5:
“My service needs to understand the motivations behind terrorism to succeed in countering it, ” she said. And part of the problem was a perception that British foreign policy was anti-Muslim, “in particular, Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Landes responds:

But the very formulation is astonishing and shows the lack of psychological sophistication of MI5. This complaint about foreign policy has little to do with what turns Muslims radical, although the radicals regularly make the complaint. They do so, not because if England changes their foreign policy these folks will be more responsive to the demands of civil society. On the contrary, the very threat of turning to violence if Britain’s foreign policy doesn’t align with their demands is a form of blackmail which defies the very basis of the civil society they pretend to be willing to join, if only Britain would comply; and Britain’s compliance would show them that Britain isn’t willing to fight for its civil rules.
There's an awful lot more, which you must read, but he ends, after giving the list which the British authorities (I'm not quite sure who, but it sounds a very believable list to have issued from almost any politician's mouth in the UK) are supposed to have stated as a basis for discourse:
This list illustrates better than almost anything how clueless the British authorities and Greenway are about the nature of the problem. It is the implications of this very list, and in particular the granting to “others” of the rights one wants to use to gain one’s own ascendancy that represent the very anathema that Western civilization constitutes to Islamists.

Wonders in The Washington Post

The Washington post ran this article on Sunday (hat tip: JOSHUAPUNDIT):

Needed: A Big Stick

Iran and Syria are waging war in the Middle East. Will the West fight back?

Sunday, November 26, 2006; Page B06

ONE WAY TO understand the deteriorating situation in the Middle East is to contrast last week's assassination of Lebanese Christian leader Pierre Gemayel with the response to it. The assassination was a shockingly audacious attack on Lebanon's democratic forces and their U.S. and European allies. But those Western governments remain in a profound muddle about how to address Iran and Syria, which have been fomenting the destabilization of Lebanon, Iraq and the Palestinian territories.

The killers of Mr. Gemayel have not been identified and may never be. But the attack fits snugly into a pattern of provocations across the region by Iran and Syria, which appear to believe that American reversals in Iraq have given them the opportunity to create what Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad calls "a new Middle East" -- one in which their influence and radical ideology will predominate. They would make their client Hezbollah the power broker in Lebanon, restoring Syrian suzerainty. They would use Hamas to block any progress toward an Israeli-Palestinian settlement and perpetuate a continuing, if low-grade, war on Israel. And they would continue to bleed the United States by supplying insurgents in Iraq with arms and sanctuary. Iran meanwhile presses ahead with its barely disguised nuclear weapons program: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently promised to increase the number of centrifuges enriching uranium from the current 328 to 60,000...

Wonders will never cease! That the Washington Post should finally recognise some of the double-dealing, and homicidal dishonesty that is being perpetrated by Iran and Syria makes a pleasant change. The final paragraph even shows some recognition that actually getting tough might help. That certainly might do better than what the West is currently practising, which is to `speak softly and ask for the stick'.

Iran and Syria are ruthlessly waging war against Western interests in the Middle East. Offering to talk is only a small part of what it will take to stop them.

Of course there's no attempt to explain the profound muddle or the malaise affecting large portions of the West; nor any admission of the large contribution to it that's been made by the MSM. There are some limits to journalistic integrity, after all.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Bye bye, Scotland?

Why is it that no-one in the blogosphere is commenting on this stuff? We have Gordon wetting himself that his power base is going to disappear and Blair fearing a `constitutional nightmare' and the MSM seem to be regarding it as a minor blip, while, as I said, places like Samizdata and EU Referendum ignore it completely.
Am I missing something?
Here's some of what Blair had to say;

The prime minister warned against a "constitutional nightmare" where the UK turns in on itself.

He stressed that the choice in next May's election would be between a Labour government or an SNP one which plans to introduce an independence bill within 100 days.

Mr Blair told party members: "Already they are publishing plans for separation - separate currency, separate pensions and social security systems, leaving Nato."

He went on: "The fact they are saying it and with utter precision shows they are deadly serious and would do it."

Brown said

... that everyone in the United Kingdom would suffer economically and culturally if Scotland voted for independence.

He also said:

"The Conservatives don't care about the union and about Britain. They are fighting [on] a policy of English votes for English laws."

and that's the source of it all, isn't it?

Labour's support is city and Scotland-based. If the Scots took their ball away, the Tories might have the electoral leeway to retreat from some of David Webcam's loonier green proposals and send Polly Toynbee back to the Guardian and win an enormous majority in the House of Commons.
Frightening stuff for Gordon and Tony. Maybe not so frightening for the English?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Pearls before swine

I despair. One comes out with something with both wit and relevance and it's completely ignored!
I posted the comment below at Done with Mirrors and no one noticed!
Realpolitik works only if the other side is playing it. If the other side is a bunch of millenarian madmen it's a really bad choice.

I would add that continuing to praise, or even fund, the UN is just about as stupid - the majority of nations involved in the UN aren't just out to lunch, they've already cut the waiter's throat and are now going through the till.


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Fruit Soup

Great post at ShrinkWrapped entitled Risks, risk assessments and Cassandras. The shrink contrasts the immediate and present danger from the Islamists and a nuclear Iran with the much longer term and milder threat from possible climate change. The point he makes is that, in most people's eyes the urgency and risk levels are reversed.

My explanation for this is functional idiocy or, more politely, execrable levels of education.

Most political arguments or statements which are applauded in the UK seem to rely on two or three buzzwords (`progressive' and `modern' immediately spring to mind) which are entirely meaningless. Most of what passes for education is sloganeering.

To give one of my (least) favourite examples, my elder daughter was asked (in Food Technology) to create a fruit soup. Now, it so happens that there is a nation which specialises in fruit soup - it's Finland. Typing `fruit soup' into Google gets you a lot of recipes, too. But that's not what she was asked to do. Instead she had to survey her classmates to find out what they'd like in their fruit soup. She had to choose the most popular three ingredients and use them to make a soup (after plotting the statutory bar chart of the number of votes for each ingredient). She was not given, or asked to find, any recipes to adapt for her purpose. She was expected to produce this delicious creation from scratch.

Here we have the worst sort of “education”. Ignore the history, ignore the thousand years of culinary expertise which is available in pre-digested form [sorry for the inadvertent pun] in existing recipes. Teach the children that nothing matters except what is new, that past experience is no guide and that expertise is oppressive. Uneducated, inchoate desires and being progressive are all that matters and if it’s a disaster, well then, never mind, it was a noble experiment and we’ll ignore those outside puking behind the bike sheds as we return to the drawing board or food blender for another transgressive attempt.

Lebanon explained somewhat better

Rick Moran at Right Wing Nuthouse has a detailed and incisive analysis of what's happening right now in Lebanon. There's not much I can add except the levels of realpolitik and cynicism we're hearing about from Foggy Bottom and Whitehall seem exceptional even for those decaying and corrupt institutions.
Why attempt to stick up for Western civilization when these people are trying to destroy it?
To give one quote:

Both the US and Great Britain have issued strong official statements condemning the assassination and supporting Prime Minister Siniora’s government – except neither one specifically mentioned Syria as the probable perpetrator of the murders. (Bush and Bolton have both fingered Syria and Iran in off-the-cuff remarks but the State Department nixed any mention of Syria in the official communique.)

This is no accident, of course, Nothing can be said that might derail the coming ass kissing session with Assad as we seek his blessing to withdraw from Iraq without the Syrian President causing the country to descend into chaos in the meantime. Given that the thug has just cold bloodedly murdered a man committed to democracy and freedom and was opposed to the kind of Islamic fundamentalism embodied in Nasrallah’s Hizbullah, our State Department and the British Foreign Office may as well have spit on Pierre Gemayel’s grave.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Lebanon explained

The BBC, don't you just love it? Here it is "explaining the Lebanese crisis":
In 1982 Iran created Hezbollah, the Party of God, which has evolved into a major player in Lebanese politics and an important ally of Iran and Syria.

And we're supposed to take this with equanimity. One of the nastiest terrorist organisations in existence, with Nazi salutes, thousands of rockets and a policy of hiding behind and dressing as civilians whilst attacking civilian targets in Israel, and all the BBC can say is that it's a "major player" and "important ally" (not even the notorious "militant" description is used). Still, I suppose that the admitted links with Iran and Syria do at least show how unutterably stupid is Tony Blair's idea of co-opting them to help reach a peaceful settlement in Iraq.

Not to worry, after Iran has nuked Israel at least we'll have been helped to reach a decision on replacing Trident. That prime anti-Semite, Beatrice Webb, would have been proud of Tony for that.

Military medics

Having just read the article in the December 2006 edition of National Geographic about Military Medicine, I recalled the Red and Green Life Machine of Ajax Bay.

Some people are just fantastic.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Q for quarantine?

This is priceless (from the BBC website)

In the middle of World War II the authorities had a problem - what to do with those children who had been evacuated but who were too disturbed or delinquent for the average family to handle.

So when a group of earnest young conscientious objectors offered to take them off to rural Essex and "cure" their antisocial tendencies with a mixture of fresh air, unconditional love and radical democracy, nobody asked too many questions.

Q Camp was a utopian experiment which tried to get troubled boys to operate a self-governing community in the middle of the countryside...

The Q stood for query or quest and the camp chief was a young man named Arthur Barron, known to everyone as Bunny.

Staff and boys lived in the most primitive conditions, in ramshackle wooden huts without windows or sanitation. A Probation Service inspector described the camp as "dirty and dismal" in one report. She said the sleeping huts filled her with "horror" and the beds "looked grimy".

Work was shared, but the youngsters weren't compelled to lift a finger. A camp council of staff and boys imposed what little discipline there was. There was also a school but attendance was voluntary and the school hut was set on fire on several occasions...

It was Mr Barron's belief that the young boys should not be told what to do. Smashed windows remained unfixed and obscenities were left daubed on walls because he believed it was better to leave the jobs until the boys responsible agreed to do them. They rarely did.

. .. in its determination to move away from the authoritarian model of the approved schools, it anticipated many of the ideas on residential childcare that became common in later decades.

Many of those involved went on to become senior and influential in their field.

Mr Barron trained as a psychoanalyst with Anna Freud and became an eminent child psychotherapist. Mr Thomas became a director of social work in Scotland. He counts the Q camp a success. Another member of staff, Chris Beedell, became an academic and a guru in the world of children's social work.

But others say Q Camp failed because the children themselves didn't want to share the responsibility, but wanted to feel the adults were in charge.

So much so that they organised themselves into two groups, masters and slaves - the ones who wanted to control and the ones who wanted to be controlled.

"This was the exact antithesis of what the theorists wanted to achieve," says author Maurice Bridgeland, who knew Mr Barron. "It was the opposite of all their principles."

Well yes, Mr Bridgeland, but I know as an academic that practice should never be allowed to get in the way of romantic theory in the social sciences. That's the glory of it. If it's an abject failure, simply describe it as a fascinating experiment which shows the way forward.

Disaster Math

I'm afraid I just had to respond to Reader_I_Am's suggestion at Done with Mirrors: create a parody of FEMA's Disaster Math pages for "kids".
It's on Disaster Math: FEMA, and is very childish.
I would be delighted to receive suggestions/other quizzes from any interested readers.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Don't be stupid, Theodore!

A response to an attack on Theodore Dalrymple

I was reading this thought-provoking post by Callimachus at Done With Mirrors. It' s talking about Lt. Colonel Nguyen Ngoc Loan. You won't know his name. But you will, if you're old enough, remember the picture of him shooting Nguyen Van Lem in the head on a Saigon street.
Callimachus' post is about newsworthiness, images and one-sidedness, and I strongly recommend reading it very carefully.
However, that's not really the point of this post.
When I'd finished reading the post (Media Icons), I started to read the comments. One of the first I came across was this one from (the) probligo:
" For me personally?

The image that defined Vietnam was that of the girl fleeing the napalm at My Lai.

Remember that one?
"What does this little piece of history prove, Cal? That Vietnam was hell? That America was wrong to get involved? Or that America should never have left? That you should have nuked Hanoi out of existance?
Why not use the images of AbuGhraib and Guantanamo and the images of the aftermath of IED's and snipers from Iraq instead? Or how about some of the images from both sides in the last Lebanon war?
Any of those would equally "prove" that war is hell.
Oh, the General was the martyr?
Is there a message there Cal? Bush should be a martyr? Rummy is a martyr?"

I was very struck by two things: first, the mistake about My Lai, and second the almost wilfull ignoring of the original post's messages. So... I turned to the author's blog: The Probligo. Probligo and Callimachus obviously have a bit of history since they refer to each other as Pro and Cal. But never mind that either. My eyes soon lit on this post, since Theodore Dalrymple is one of my favourite writers.
I am not going to attempt to give a proper summary of it since I would do neither it nor my blood pressure justice. I shall therefore merely permit myself a few brief observations.

The post references this article by Dalrymple. It is, as many readers might suppose, rehearsing some of Dalrymple's themes in the context of a visit to New Zealand.
With stylistic elegance Dalrymple talks of the murderer who wrote In the Belly of the Beast and relates his experience and that of the author's sponsor, Norman Mailer. The key quote is
Mailer lived in a world (that of radical politics protected by a bourgeois order) in which words never really meant what they said or said what they really meant, in which moral exhibitionism was the highest good and the sine qua non of the regard of one‘s peers. So safe were they in their literary enclave that reality didn’t matter much; what counted was the ability to use words in the approved fashion, and truth was nowhere.

Then Dalrymple relates this to New Zealand as follows:
While I was in New Zealand, I learned of two cases that seemed emblematic of the Mailerian developments in the new Zealand criminal justice system. The first concerned a man with 102 convictions, many for violence including rape. (I should point out that 102 convictions means many more offences, since the conviction rate is never 100 per cent of the offending rate, and is sometimes only 5 or 10 per cent of it.)

This man nevertheless became eligible for parole. As conditions of parole, the board told him he must not drink, smoke cannabis or frequent certain places. The man told the board that he would abide by none of these conditions, but he was released on parole anyway. Within a short time, he had killed three people and so maimed a fourth that she will never recover.

The second case was of a man with many previous convictions, some for violence, who abducted and murdered a young woman aged 24. He was imprisoned and applied for bail. Three times he was turned down, but a fourth judge granted him bail. He was sent to live at a certain address, where he befriended his neighbours, who did not know that he was accused of murder. Eight months later, while babysitting their children, he killed one of them.
Perhaps the most extraordinary twist of this terrible tale is that the parents of the murdered child then had another baby, which the social services then removed from them on the grounds that they had previously entrusted a child to the care of a murderer and were therefore irresponsible parents. The state blames its citizens for the mistakes - if that is what they are - that it makes.

Dalrymple ascribes this to the `moral frivolity' of the NZ criminal justice system. He goes on to blame Rousseau as one of the main sources for the terrible moral confusion that pertains in most criminal justice systems in the Western world, to say that`most criminals come from a very bad background' but finishes by pointing out that we ` confute two questions: first, how do we prevent people from becoming criminals in the first place, and second, how do we prevent those who have become recidivist criminals from committing further crimes? The two questions have different answers, and there is not a single answer to them both.'

Now what has (the) Probligo to say?
Well he starts like this:
It would be a perfect world if we could stop all of these killings and maimings. It would be a perfect world if we did not have road traffic deaths as well.

But commentators like Dalrymple, and organisations like SST [Sensible Sentencing Trust, of which Dalrymple was the guest] as well come to the point, really do piss me off more than just a little.

Yes, I have a problem with them, and it is very simple.

Like so many people, they take a single instance or a very small number of instances and make sweeping generalisations covering the whole population. I can not argue against the figures, they pretty much speak for themselves.

What is missing -

* A meaningful and supportable discussion of the causes of increased crime levels.

* A meaningful and supportable discussion of possible and effective measures that would reduce crime.

* A meaningful and supportable discussion of effective crime prevention.

He concludes with
How about some sensible, workable, suggestions on how it can be stopped?
My first reaction, as someone on the right and an enthusiastic reader of Dalrymple (did I already say that?) is simply to tell him that Dalrymple has spent a long time advancing solutions to these problems and indeed attempting to do his bit to implement them whilst working as a psychiatrist in an inner city hospital and in a nearby prison. Read this book!
My second reaction, as I guess it should be for any mathematician is "there's only a finite amount of time available, so let it go!".
But this time I decided not to.

I shan't take long.
Preamble. We on the right tend to believe in the imperfection of man. We don't believe (with Rousseau) in the noble savage (if he did), indeed we believe that, along with his life, he himself was probably nasty, brutish and short. We note with no surprise whatsoever that some modern archeology has estimated that in the past 25% of males died at the hands of others. We are not in the least taken aback to learn that "the great majority of Aboriginal people themselves are voting with their feet and assimilating into white society." In short, we think that civilization can do better.
I should add that Dalrymple writes very well about this (did I say he's good?).

First main point. How is man improved from his state of innocent imperfection? By teaching, training, example and punishment.
We learn to care for others and treat them with respect by a mixture of experience (I banged my head, it hurt), observation (when I pinch little Jemima, she hurts like me), punishment (I hit little Jemima and I was smacked) and example (Jemima forebore to hit me and got a sweet). Much of this was (in the past) provided by good, or even fairly average parents. They were strongly encouraged in this task by society's approbation, encouragement and the threat of sanction.
The Golden Rule was commonly taught and widely understood as a recipe for a good society.

Second point. Where parents and the immediate environment fail, and occasionally they will, the wider society needs to be seen to step in. A process must be initiated which will rigorously attempt to establish the facts [and it's not a game]. If a transgression is established to have taken place then the process must impose punishment.
The purpose of punishment is threefold: to signal to the individual society's disapproval; to signal to society the fact that transgression will not go unpunished; to exact retribution and enable the individual to regard the transgression as "spent" so that they may be rehabilitated. In the interests of these purposes, other consideration of circumstances must take place and should affect the level and nature of the punishment.

Third point. It's much easier and more effective to run such a system with very limited chances to be `let off'. I.e. at most one warning should be given before a full punishment takes place and even minor transgressions need to be noticed else more serious ones will follow. In the language of parenting, "we need clear boundaries, which are firmly adhered to".

Fourth point. No system is perfect. We say with Flaubert [for we never despise wisdom, whatever the source] "perfection is the enemy of the good". Thus, to spell it out for the dullards, society will fail (if you like to put it that way). Some people will become hardened in their wickedness whom a different system might have saved. We accept this as the cost of imperfection. The alternative costs are even worse since they will penalise the innocent.

Final point. Look around you. Do you see any of this sort of thing happening? No, we see someone with 102 convictions being considered for parole rather than being required to serve his whole sentence. We see the prison population climbing fast in the UK despite more and more attempts to restrict imprisonment to fewer and fewer crimes (recorded crime 1 per 360 individuals per annum in 1921, 1 per 10 individuals per annum in 2001; 1 in 3,400 in prison in 1921, 1 in 850 in prison in 1999).

This last is a common phenomenon across Western civilization. And this Theodore Dalrymple has written a lot about (did I say he has a beautiful prose style?). This is what is available to anyone with a brain, the power of observation and the courage to believe that their current perfection may not be entirely due to their own efforts or the state of [no doubt secular] grace in which they were born.

Enough already.