Saturday, September 30, 2006

Mutual incomprehension

Here's a rather good post by an American who taught in Saudi for a year. Since he also trained as an anthropologist he should be taken fairly seriously. Can I also recommend Hilary Mantel's Eight Months on Ghazzah Street?

This is about Arab culture, not Muslims.

You couldn't make it up

Conservative leader David Cameron is to tackle "head-on" claims that he is all style and no substance.

He will use his party's annual conference, which starts in Bournemouth on Sunday, to stress his commitment to developing serious policy ideas.

There will be no specific policy announcements at the four-day rally, a Tory spokesman confirmed.

It makes Baghdad look like a walk in the park

Not the best of news from Helmand province. Six thousand British troops committed in Afghanistan and it's worse than Baghdad. Well, that's understandable, but where are the rest of NATO (apart from the ever-present USA)? Where is our commitment to increase the size of and support for the British armed forces?
We don't want to know. Let's just watch reality television and spend our time getting legless.

Rationalism, reason and ranting: everybody's doing it

Let's compare the entries in these three essays to try and get a better idea of what the Pope may have been trying to get at:

first there's wayofthewest's seventh essay on history: The Enlightenment. I still think the best quote relates to the experience of thsoe who followed the sixties Hippy Trail: "what they acquired was not wisdom but one or more of a variety of infectious diseases".

However, probably the most important summary of what went wrong is:
"Short-changed at home in their early years by their crassly self-righteous and prejudiced mentors -- an unforgiveable dereliction of duty -- the students were astonishingly uneducated, unaware that what they knew of their own culture was merely the tip of the iceberg, that the West was far, far more than merely a storehouse of techniques and technical goodies; that the Wisdom Literature of the West -- right at their own back door -- easily matched the best of the East in range and depth. However, much of this Western literature comes with the label 'Christian', which makes it like nuclear waste: contaminating, not to be touched. That great annihilator of collective memory, the relentless enemy of institutional Christianity, the anti-clerical Voltaire (d. 1778), was not a deep thinker, but he was a gifted propagandist. Year after year, penning with glib certainty his repertoire of half-truths, he and his confrères managed to establish as social reflexes a certain set of conceptual equations. Two of the central ones :--

Mediaeval and Scholastic = Antiquated Stupidity, Superstition and Injustice.
Modern and Scientific = Progress, Happiness, Open-minded Understanding and Justice.

It was only after experiencing at first hand the emotional traumas and spiritual degradations, the nihilistic landscapes of terror, the vast desolations of mute bleakness, the Gas Chambers, Gulags and Re-Education Camps created during the Modern, Progressive, Scientific 20th Century, that substantial numbers of people began to have doubts about these facile indentifications."

However, the fundamental point of his essay is to classify cultures (a two by two classification, in statistical language) depending on whether or not they address each of two questions posed by Leibniz:
"T]he first question we have a right to ask will be, why is there something rather than nothing? ... Furthermore, assuming that things must exist, we must be able to give a reason for why they must exist in this way, and not otherwise." [Principles of Nature and Grace / 1714 AD].
Richard Dawkin's answer to the first of these, by the way, is `whereof Natural Science cannot speak, thereof I shall insist that you remain silent".

The second [essay], by P E Johnson (a lawyer), I referenced in my earlier post triggered by wayofthewest's essay.
I'll give the link to my earlier post and you can track it from there. The point is that Johnson deftly skewers not only this rejection, but also the fact that Darwinism has actually assumed many of the attributes of a religion (or more properly, a cult), since Dawkins et al. having rejected the question, have simultaneously slipped into believing that somehow Darwinism is the answer. A mystery which dwarfs that of the triune Godhead, IMHO.

The third is a blog post by Shrinkwrapped entitled Reason and Rationality. In this post he builds up to the final statement
"Those who attack people like Hanson as unduly pessimistic are placing their faith in reason without realizing that once divorced from rationality, from a core belief in "a rational cosmos", reason becomes a tool of the enemy. "
He gets there by way of a critique of the basis of science, quoting Lee Harris (paraphrasing Schopenhauer in The Weekly Standard):
"Modern scientific reason says that the universe is governed by rules through and through; indeed, it is the aim of modern reason to disclose and reveal these laws through scientific inquiry. Yet, as Schopenhauer asks, where did this notion of a law-governed universe come from? No scientist can possibly argue that science has proven the universe to be rule-governed throughout all of space and all of time. As Kant argued in his Critique of Judgment, scientists must begin by assuming that nature is rational through and through: It is a necessary hypothesis for doing science at all. But where did this hypothesis, so vital to science, come from?"
The answer, of course, is
"modern scientific reason derived its model of the universe from the Christian concept of God as a rational Creator who has intelligently designed every last detail of the universe ex nihilo".
That's why I have trouble with Science. I know, as a Mathematician, that the rules of logic are right, I don't know that the Universe is a law-governed place. For me it's merely an article of faith.
But that's not important, what's important in Shrinkwrapped's excellent essay is this:

"[How can it be] that Journalists, who embody the perceptual apparatus of our Civilization, end up encouraging the kinds of irrationality that threaten to engulf all of us? By failing to understand how their world, the Western Civilization that nurtures and holds them, rests upon a core belief in "a rational cosmos" (the opposite of Post-Modern thought) the rather limited followers and adherents of such PC thinking facilitate their mis-use by the enemies of everything they hold dear. They ally themselves with those who deny all rationality and demand "submission." The paradox would be merely an intellectual challenge if it weren't so serious."

So, what I wanted to say is simple: if we don't know where we're coming from and what we're about, we're going to be in serious trouble quite soon - maybe that's at least part of what the Pope was really trying to say.


I have been rather slow to catch on. But Obsession looks extremely informative, from the clips I've seen.

Fjordman reports

Fjordman has no blog of his own.
He places articles at various blogs ( I suppose that makes him a freelance blogger).
The articles are well written, unflinchingly honest and very informative.

Why not go to Klein Verzet's reference page where he's maintaining a list of Fjordman's articles?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

No-go Reid?

This is a fantastic move forward. I did not think we'd hear anything like this from the Labour party until they were in opposition.
Just one small problem.
Will Reid follow through?


This is the start of an explanation of the cognitive dissonance that underlies the last 300 years in the West. Read it now!

I'm a mathematician, I don't lightly talk about spirituality or the non-scientific, but equally, I'm more aware of the limitations of empirical science than the average scientist. Maths is not empirical, it's the search for verifiable truth. When you do that, every day, for a living, you get pretty attuned to the fudges underlying science, particularly meta-science such as Darwinism.
When I listen to Dawkins (which I can only take for about 30 seconds) I hear the same fanaticism, the same reductionist argumentation, the same mindless polemic and ideology that I associate with the worst of the left.

To quote this wonderful review by P E Johnson:

"To true-believing Darwinists like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, all such objections are fundamentally misconceived. The more intricately "designed" a feature appears to be, the more certain it is to have been constructed by natural selection -- because there is no alternative way of producing design without resorting to impossible skyhooks. Even in the toughest cases, where plausible Darwinian hypotheses are hard to imagine and impossible to confirm, a Darwinian solution simply has to be out there waiting to be found. The alternative to natural selection is either God or chance. The former is outside of science, and also apparently outside the contemplation of Gould or Chomsky; the latter is no solution at all. Once you understand the dimensions of the problem, and the philosophical constraints within which it must be solved, Darwinism is practically true by definition -- regardless of the evidence.

I call this a very interesting situation. Within science the Darwinian viewpoint clearly occupies the high ground, because nobody has come up with an alternative for explaining Design that does not invoke an unacceptable pre-existing Mind. (Dennett easily refutes such hype-induced notions as that a physics of self-organizing systems from the Santa Fe Institute is in the process of replacing Darwinism.) But the rulers of this impregnable citadel are worried because not everybody believes that their citadel is impregnable. They are troubled not only by polls showing that the American public still overwhelmingly favors some version of supernatural creation, but also by the tendency of prominent scientists to accept Darwinism-in- principle, but to dispute the applicability of the theory to specific problems, usually the problems about which they are best qualified to speak.

Dennett thinks that the dissenters either fail to understand the logic of Darwinism or shrink from embracing its full metaphysical implications. I prefer another explanation: Darwinism is a lot stronger as philosophy than it is as empirical science. If you aren't willing to challenge the underlying premise of scientific materialism, you are stuck with Darwinism- in-principle as a creation story until you find something better, and it doesn't seem that there is anything better. Once you get past the uncontroversial examples of microevolution, however, such as finch beak variations, peppered moth coloring, and selective breeding, all certainty dissolves in speculation and controversy. Nobody really knows how life originated, where the animal phyla came from, or how natural selection could have produced the qualities of the human mind. Ingenious hypothetical scenarios for the evolution of complex adaptations are presented to the public virtually as fact, but skeptics within science derisively call them "just-so" stories, because they can neither be tested experimentally nor supported by fossil histories."

Now let me quote something very different from the FAQ for Battleground God (from TPM Online), which is more to the point for Joe Public:

3. Evolutionary theory has [not] been proved certainly and irrevocably.

This one catches the atheists, and boy, they don't like it. The problem emerges (it's a bullet) if one accepts that evolutionary theory is true, but want certain and irrevocable proof for God before accepting God's existence.

Well, sorry guys, you don't get certain and irrevocable proof in science - and if you think that you do, then it is you that doesn't understand how science works, not us! The point is, of course, that irrevocable certainty is not required before it is reasonable to accept scientific propositions as being true (i.e., as being facts). Here's Stephen Jay Gould on this matter:

"In science, 'fact' can only mean 'confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.' I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms."

Of course, that's what I meant when I stressed that I was a mathematician. I don't deal with picayune, empirical, here today and gone tomorrow theories, I deal with the truth - like the 2500 year old Theorem of Pythagorus. So when I hear that Darwinism explains everything I think `that's not science, not even empirical science, that's religion. It's not me that believes in an old white man with a long beard up in the sky, it's the evolutionary theorists and the old man's called Darwin.'

To be brief, Darwinism most certainly doesn't explain the existence of Richard Dawkins, and, to be blunt, if Richard Dawkins doesn't want to face his eventual demise with an excess of fear and trepidation he really ought to give a little thought to that fact.

There are some people out there who might help him, but he's been telling them for years that they're stupid, immoral or insane.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Freedom Fighter responds on Venezuela

I was worried that this post might come across as anti-American, so I e-mailed it to Freedom Fighter of JOSHUAPUNDIT (see the sidebar for link) soliciting helpful comments. What he sent back was so illuminating that I'm posting it separately here.

From what I know of Britain, I can fully understand why our esteemed cousins would find the detaining and strip searching of a foreign diplomat deplorable...though given the source I would question how `harshly' the subject was treated in actual fact. If some members of ICE(Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) forgot themselves and went a bit over the top, I don't think it's `anti-American' on your part to say that it was a mistake - and in fact, our State Department has done so.

Senor Maduro will, of course, enjoy the social cachet of being a victim of Yanqui imperialism and will be able to dine out on the story for months to come.

I totally agree with you that nothing is more impressive than to respond to rudeness and/or stupidity with logic and politeness. But that encompasses a cultural difference between Americans and their British cousins, IMO.

America is the land of the putdown, the smackdown, the nasty quip, the quick turnabout as fair play. After all, this is the country that once had `don't tread on me' as something of a national motto! There is also a natural tendency for Americans to delight in putting a self-important person `in their place' as well and`proving' to `outsiders' that they are not to be trifled with. There's the famous story of a 19th century Englishman visiting a South Dakota ranch and asking one of the cowhands where his master was to be found, only to be told `The son of a bitch hasn't been born yet.'

I think many Australians share a bit of this attitude as well.

Some of this natural tendency may have actually been enhanced here by American Black culture in the US, where `doin' the dozens' (ie, out-insulting the competition) is a beloved tradition and a cultural touchstone that reverberates well with Americans in general. Listen to the comedic stylings of Eddie Murphy or Redd Foxx sometime.

As for the US having a strong isolationist streak, that's been true for quite some time, almost since the country's inception. It's sort of instinctive, partly from having an ocean separating us and partly due to the fact that the majority of the American population came there expressly to get away from involvement in what was going on in their country of origin. Sort of a synthetic `rebirth' in a way.

Any leadership role in what Mark Steyn calls the `anglosphere' has not been of our choosing for the most part but a matter of necessity, which is deliciously ironic considering how the US is considered to be the epitome of imperialism in many circles.


Carey lashes out

Former Archbishop of Canterbury says:
It is Islam, a different civilisation whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power.
I'm amazed, I remember him as just as wet as the current bearded wonder.

Here are a couple of related articles: Michael Ledeen on religion and Thomas Sowell on the limits of tolerance.

What is truth and whose is it?

This is well worth reading:

"The pope's third point — which has been almost entirely ignored — was directed to the West. If the West's high culture keeps playing in the sandbox of postmodern irrationalism — in which there is "your truth" and "my truth" but nothing such as "the truth" — the West will be unable to defend itself. Why? Because the West won't be able to give reasons why its commitments to civility, tolerance, human rights and the rule of law are worth defending.

A Western world stripped of convictions about the truths that make Western civilization possible cannot make a useful contribution to a genuine dialogue of civilizations, for any such dialogue must be based on a shared understanding that human beings can, however imperfectly, come to know the truth of things."

On the same theme, read this from Kobayashi Maru, here's a taste:

The impulse of the O'Donnells and the Chomskys of the world is a fundamentally deconstructionist one (something Chomsky surely appreciates; I don't give O'Donnell that much credit.). It's an impulse to cut loose from the idea of a knowable, eternal truth--the font of all reason and love--and seek to elevate anything but. Universal demands for mutual tolerance are thrown aside in favor of demands for one-way tolerance of their type of people and deep hate of Christians and Republicans (for example). Demands for non-violence are little different from the demands heard (or rather, felt) at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968: die pigs!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Venezuelan Airport Blues

It’s Sunday and I’m depressed.

Why am I depressed?

If you’ve got five minutes I’ll tell you why I’m depressed.

I’m an academic mathematician working at a university in the UK. I work in a medium sized department with a nice common room. Many of us regularly eat a sandwich lunch together in said common room.

For the past four years I’ve done something else as well. I’ve consistently defended the USA (and Israel) from a lot of criticism from my colleagues.

If you want to know my position: I’m in favour of the Western civilization we’ve got (or had 30 years ago) and want to preserve it rather than trade it in for a newer, but clunkier and bloodier version. I believe that America (the US of) is the largest repository of the values of said Western civilization and is generally a GOOD THING.

Now this defence thing started off fairly badly. My colleagues were fairly convinced that whilst 9/11 was a terrible thing maybe America had deserved it and Israel certainly persecuted those poor Palestinians. In particular, America was too high-handed and an international law unto itself and the Arabs and Muslims and Palestinians were simply demonstrating a natural post-colonial backlash and who wouldn’t (lash back) against such an un-nuanced and gauche oppressor. You know the sort of thing (only halve it because these are mathematicians and they know about truth in their professional lives, even though they forget to apply the same standards outside it).

I’ve put up with a lot of flak but have been tolerated and politely heard (and that’s saying something, because I can be quite inflammatory – or so my spouse tells me).

Anyway, over the past six months I’ve noticed a change. To be blunt, I’ve felt that the tide has turned. The latest move forward has been after the charming response to the Pope’s lecture [no need for links, you know what I mean]. I sat at lunch and listened to my colleagues fulminate. I admit I brought the subject up, but I didn’t have to say another word. Everyone was condemning the response, no-one was blaming US oppression (or the Pope) and I sat back and thought `Hallelujah!’

That was on Friday.

Then on Sunday morning I spot this story:

Venezuela has made a formal complaint to the US authorities and the United Nations after its foreign minister was detained at a New York airport.

The US state department has apologised to Nicolas Maduro who was detained for 90 minutes at New York's JFK airport as he travelled home.

He had been attending this week's UN General Assembly meeting.

He said he was verbally abused and strip-searched in what he said was a "flagrant breach of international law".”

I immediately turned to Little Green Footballs to get some realistic reporting and read this:

Chavez Foreign Minister Gets "Secondary Screening"

“Just a little wake-up call from Satan to Hugo: Chavez: U.S. detained foreign minister. (Hat tip: LGF readers.)”

So I followed that up and read:

The airline identified him for secondary screening,"


Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said in Washington.

Airlines check passengers names against watch lists and apply certain criteria — such as paying for a ticket with cash — to direct passengers to a more intensive, or "secondary," screening process.

"From secondary screening the department was able to confirm his identity as the foreign minister for Venezuela," Knocke said.

And thought “Oh dear!”

Actually I didn’t, but I can’t tell you what I really thought. No, I can’t. No, it’s not printable.

I’m going to get hell on Monday.

Some of Charles Johnson’s commenters won’t understand my problem. People like Ted, for example, who says

I hope he was given a full cavity search...”,

or Murqtaad, who says

And we let him go because.....?

Because he's a diplomat, of course. Can't go arresting thugs if they have a "D" on their plates.

IMO, Chavez and Mahmoud shoulda been held. F world opinion. Someone has to do the right thing.

or Superdave TWC, who says:

Oh my Goodness! They detained a foreign anti-American thug?

Why was he detained for only an hour?

Why is he not in G'itmo?

Why am I going to get hell on Monday? The very short answer is `because Maduro is Venezuela’s foreign minister!’

More detail (I wouldn’t need to explain this to my British colleagues-they’d all take it as read) – you show respect to the office even if there’s a dribbling thug currently occupying it. From my reading it seems that any worthwhile American instinctively understands this when it comes to, for example POTUS but not, perhaps for the elected officials of other democracies.

Now you may be getting ready to argue here. After all we’re talking about a minor South American country run by a thug (no argument there, Superdave WTC) and, on reading this version of events, it looks as though it might even be a setup, but that’s not the point.

There’s no way he should have been allowed to go to the airport without somebody letting airport security know who he was. There’s no way he should have been detained and (if he was) there’s no way he should have been strip-searched.

Now people like Ted and Murqtaad not only do not regret this event, but wish that more indignities had been heaped upon him and I sympathise with how they feel. But such expressions of irritation and anger should be made in private and Ted, in case it escaped your notice, you’re not. In case you forgot, www stands for World-wide web. Note the first word.

In public the USA should not behave like the adolescent who has accidentally locked an objectionable guest in the lavatory and when told to apologise, whispers - sorry!

The USA has suffered insult to their President by the President of Venezuela and it must be very tempting to respond in kind . However, notice first that we’re talking Venezuela here and second that we’re talking the USA.

There’s long been an isolationist trend in the US and events like these tend to set it off. Well, now is not the time in my opinion. There’s a family of the Anglosphere and you’re the head of the family, not some snivelling junior member who can go sulk in his room until everyone’s forgotten.

Chavez was unbelievably rude in the UN – that's indisputably true. But Chavez made an idiot of himself-now you want to reap the benefit.

In these circumstances, nothing impresses your friends (and even bystanders) more than to respond to rudeness with politeness. That urbane politeness that is maintained by a host in the face of extreme provocation by a guest. Nothing, in my humble opinion, is better calculated to inspire the rest of the family. Eschew the bluster, avoid the insult, show the grace that flows from supreme self-confidence coupled with good manners. Do this, and you not only impress the Anglosphere, you might even persuade some Venezuelans that the embarrassment is all theirs and they should ditch the public face of that embarrassment in short order. If not, no matter. Your friends and allies will notice and it will stiffen their resolve.

I’m not talking appeasement here. I’m not suggesting kowtowing to your enemies, I’m talking about the normal civilities between nations which should only stop on the declaration of war (and sometimes not even then – it’s always best to have some channel of communication, even with a rat).

Well, my colleagues will certainly take this attitude and they will be stunned and disgusted that the USA apparently hasn’t.

And that’s why I’m going to have a really bad time tomorrow.

I wonder if I should call in sick?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Phillips and Reid

Melanie Phillips is cheering up a bit as this diary entry shows:

"The most telling interjection from the Islamic extremist who heckled the Home Secretary John Reid today in East London was the cry ‘How dare you come to a Muslim area’. There it was, the territorial challenge implicit in the ongoing attempt to Islamise Britain both by stealth and by force, that areas where British Muslims live are by definition no-go areas for the British state — and, by extension in the cultural sphere, Islamic values are equally no-go areas to which the British state must give way.

This was of course, as Reid immediately observed, an intolerable assertion. It would spell the Balkanisation of Britain. It was good to hear him slap it down; such is the government’s usual craven approach to the problem of Islamic extremism in Britain, it was quite a shock to hear the Home Secretary taking for once such a robust approach."

Indeed, good news. Of course, one cannot escape the feeling that Reid is setting himself up as the natural alternative to Gordon Brown. Scuttlebutt has it that Reid will be straight out the door should Brown become God's New Labour's anointed. Nevertheless a firm grasp of principle is a good sign in a politician.

"Of course, the predictable reaction duly followed: from the Muslim community, general outrage that parents were being asked to ‘spy’ on their children to prevent them from being indoctrinated by a death cult which would send them to murder untold numbers of their fellow citizens, for goodness’ sake; and from the chattering classes, shaking of heads over the reckless unwisdom of the Home Secretary— through his apparently utterly outrageous request to parents to prevent their children from being brainwashed by fanatics into becoming human bombs — in doubtless provoking previously moderate Muslims into militancy (with no acknowledgement of the blindingly obvious contradiction in that particular proposition)."

And this is where the problem really starts. This attitude is what New Labour has been promoting throughout its tenure - the withdrawal of support for any form of active parenting.

For years children have been threatening their parents with calling Childline or the police should the parents dare to forbid the children anything or (heaven forfend) set out to chastise them or restrain them.

Labour has encouraged an attitude of witless and irresponsible dependence on social services and other organs of the state to compensate for inadequate parenting and now Reid tries to turn 'round and suggest that the parents do more. I think it's a good idea. I think it's essential if our culture is to survive, but I don't think it's going to win Reid many supporters in the Labour party.

Of course, expect a resounding lack of support for the sentiments in the next paragraph:

"It seemed to me that what Reid was doing, by addressing the Muslim community in this way, was not merely making a plea to parents but also, for the first time, drawing a line in the cultural sand. In effect, he was saying: this is one country, and it will not be fragmented but everyone has to observe the same basic rules; and also that we will no longer engage in the dialogue of the demented in which we have been forced to participate. We will no longer put up with the moral and intellectual inversion, the shifting of blame onto the victims, the disavowal of communal responsibility for a phenomenon which arises directly out of that community; we will no longer tolerate the cultural dismemberment of Britain."

Finally, even if New Labour support this volte face, will the civil servants? I think not. They have far too much invested in the status quo. Most of them owe their livelihoods to this attitude. How can they possibly implement its rejection?

Whether this tentative throwing down of the cultural gauntlet in the face of creeping Islamisation does mark a more general shift away from the Whitehall strategy of appeasing extremism that has obtained until now remains to be seen. There is still a huge distance for the government to travel before it emerges from its state of collective denial. What is urgently needed, for example, is much more robust action against the fanatics doing the brainwashing. It is beyond belief that individuals are still able to parade on the streets of Britain calling for the murder of the Pope, or inciting hatred and murder against Jews or – in the words of the shiny new law on the statute book — glorifying terrorism. But despite such persistently high levels of paralysis within the establishment, there are now also signs in various quarters of a growing movement towards reality."

It may be beyond belief, but it's still happening and I suspect the police are too busy arresting people for calling their horses gay to deal with this petty stuff.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Travesty of statistics

In the most spineless demonstration of inadequate journalism we get the following report from the THES.

"Hefce report questions value of costly initiatives and argues for open entry to university, writes Claire Sanders.

Universities would need to scrap entry requirements to make any real headway in admitting students from a broader range of backgrounds, according to a highly controversial report commissioned by funding chiefs.

The review of widening access raises doubts about whether policies to reduce inequality through education can ever work and will fuel the debate over why the participation of disadvantaged groups in higher education has stalled despite billions of pounds being ploughed into the area.

A review team led by Stephen Gorard of York University argues that in the near future discrimination based on school qualification could seem as "unnatural as discrimination by sex, class, ethnicity, sexuality, disability and age do now". Instead, a "threshold level" could be introduced, equivalent to perhaps two A levels, and places to specific institutions could be allocated according to students' location, disciplinary specialisation or randomly.

Professor Gorard, who led the team from York, the Higher Education Academy and the Institute for Access Studies, said: "As research indicates that qualifications are largely a proxy for class and income, then why use them as a means of rationing higher education? The Open University has operated an open-access scheme for years that has clearly not damaged standards."

This is either ignorance so vast that it clearly indicates the man should not be employed by York or else a deliberately misleading set of statements driven by a political agenda.
Firstly, as any half-assed tyro knows, evidence of association is not evidence for causation. Thus, in particular, we don't know that [high] class and income cause qualifications, indeed the reverse casuation might hold: qualifications make people rich. Secondly, even if the causative link might be asserted, where does this leave the universities? In order to widen access they should accept those with poor education, because they have been discrimated against. Ignoring issues about positive discrimination this can only be true up to a point-or should they accept the innumerate to do mathematics and the illiterate to study English? No, no, `don't be ridiculous' says Professor Gorard-`two A levels rule that out. Look at the OU.'

Well, I do look at the OU. Ignoring the fact that in my subject an OU degree is not taken to be evidence of high ability, the OU (as I'm sure Gorard knows) has a requirement for a Foundation year. And this is intended to make up for the absence of standard academic qualifications at a reasonable level.

Why do I get the feeling that Professor Gorard ( a former teacher of maths and computer science who is quoted as saying on his appointment "I want to help build a centre of excellence for research on the effectiveness and equity of education systems.") views equity as meaning "without regard to proven ability"?

I do not argue that wealth or class (whatever that means these days) doesn't help a child, I'm sure it does. My problem is that opening the Universities to anyone with 2 Es at A level does not redress the balance. This is just another way to hide the rolling avalanche of failure that is (the average of) state education in the UK. It's not the (semi-private) universities' job to fix the inadequacies of the pre-18 education system. If we attempt to do so, then we do so at the cost of miserably failing to train the top 10%. In a few years we've lost our research base and then we're stuffed. No industry, no educated "elite", nothing to give us an economic edge in anything.

This is the route that the USA has partially gone down, and they only stem the rot by recruiting able PhD students from overseas.

Politician tells truth-public dismayed

"Hungary's prime minister has admitted saying that his party lied to the public to win April's general election.

Ferenc Gyurcsany's admission came after Hungarian radio played a tape of a meeting he had with his Socialist MPs a few weeks after the election.

On it he says the party had lied to the public and his "boneheaded" government failed to introduce any real policies."

Poor people, poor Mr Gyurcsany. Obviously, the EU commissioners forgot to explain to him about not admitting to lying.

Might this be called `doing a Gyurcsany' in future? No, the name's too hard to pronounce.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

It's not just me - even the BBC is getting it (a bit)

I'm beginning to feel that there may be a little hope for the UK after all.

These are two adjacent stories from the BBC's website this morning:

"Criticism is continuing to pour in from religious and political leaders in the Muslim world following remarks by Pope Benedict XVI about Islam.

Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, spoke of sinister tendencies to link terror with Islam which gave rise to an ominous alienation with the West."

"Forty-seven bodies have been found across Baghdad, police say, raising the total number of corpses found in recent days in the Iraqi capital to 176.

Many of the victims had been tortured or shot in the head or chest."

Then the most e-mailed story (still on the front page):

And here is the first page of comments (ordered by number of recommendations) from the BBC's Have Your Say page:

first the question:

Were the Pope's remarks 'anti-Islamic'?

Muslim leaders have criticised Pope Benedict over comments he made linking the Muslim faith with unrest.

In a speech, during a visit to Germany, the Pope quoted a 14th Century Christian emperor who said the Prophet Muhammad had brought the world only "evil and inhuman" things.

Pope Benedict stressed that the words were not his, but the head of the Muslim Brotherhood said the remarks had "aroused the anger of the whole Islamic world".

Was Pope Benedict wrong to make the statement? Should the Pope apologise? Send us your comment
and now the comments:

Added: Friday, 15 September, 2006, 09:26 GMT 10:26 UK

oh look, muslims are up in arms. again.

Steve, Leeds

Added: Friday, 15 September, 2006, 10:18 GMT 11:18 UK

I am sick and tired of the hypocrisy of the Muslim world. While the West gets a constant barrage about being evil, decadent etc etc., the Muslim world gets all worked up about anything and everything they perceive as an insult.
Why should the West and the rest of the world have to tip-toe around Muslims whilst the Muslim world can issue countless diatribes full of garbage aimed at the West?
Since when did the Muslim world have the monopoly on sensitivity?

Terry Humphries, Yokohama, Japan

Added: Friday, 15 September, 2006, 09:41 GMT 10:41 UK

His comments weren't anti-Islamic, they were used to prove a point about the relationship between religion and violence, two things which should never be associated.

Yet again we see the Islamic community taking slight at the words before actually considering the point and context of them.

How many times have we seen Islamic leaders talk about the "evil west" and how we have "no morals" - the rules need to be applied both ways if a respectful balance is to be achieved.

Chris P, Liverpool

Added: Friday, 15 September, 2006, 09:39 GMT 10:39 UK

Sorry but when did constructive criticism of Islam become illegal. The Pope, or indeed anyone else has the right to make remarks (in this case not even his own) about any religion, it's called freedom of speech. We must stop Islamists from holding our rights to ransom under the guise of racism.

qwerty, UK

Added: Friday, 15 September, 2006, 09:40 GMT 10:40 UK

His comments were very timely and appropriate. It's time someone called a spade a spade and stop this drama of political correctness

Dr Alok Sharma, Rhuddlan

Added: Friday, 15 September, 2006, 10:41 GMT 11:41 UK

For goodness sake! Isn't this just another case of the muslim world taking the opportunity to view, and present, itself as the 'victim' community being attacked from all sides?
This is just another opportunity for muslim leaders to stir up their own communities against the west, whilst putting us on the back foot and having to, once again, apologise to the muslim world.
What with all the rhetoric against the west, I would suggest muslims get their own house in order, before judging the rest.

Patrick, St Ives

Added: Friday, 15 September, 2006, 10:18 GMT 11:18 UK

So it's OK for the president of Iran to constantly spout anti-semitic and anti-Christian rhetoric, but as soon as the Pope quotes someone else's rather dodgy views on Islam, Muslims of the world are outraged.

I agree that all is not well between Islam and the West, but this kind of behaviour helps no-one.

Oliver, York

Added: Friday, 15 September, 2006, 10:41 GMT 11:41 UK

With all the ongoing crisis in the middle east, as far as I can see, the quote makes a valid point.

If Muslim world's anger can simply be aroused by a quote, it's probably time to get some anger management.


Added: Friday, 15 September, 2006, 09:40 GMT 10:40 UK

Although I don't believe the Pope's comments were helpful - I also believe that it is not just the Muslim faith who should be entitled to freedom of speach - how often have Muslim fanatics insulted, condemned and incited relgious hatred in the name of thier religion?

Lynn, UK

Added: Friday, 15 September, 2006, 09:40 GMT 10:40 UK

No, the Pope should not apologise until terrorist actions carried out in the name of Islam cease.

Gareth, Tokyo, Japan

Added: Friday, 15 September, 2006, 12:58 GMT 13:58 UK

If Muslims were as quick to publicly condemn the suicide bombers who cowardly kill and maim in the name of Islam, then maybe we'd start taking other things they whinge about more seriously.

seamus, London

Added: Friday, 15 September, 2006, 11:29 GMT 12:29 UK

Here we go again! Dare to say anything which could be construed as criticism of Islam, and the usual bandwagon of vilification and hatred gets underway.

Why not wonder "why do people see us in this light; why do people say such things about us?" and seek to change perceptions?!

By giving the usual reaction, Muslims merely reinforce the stereotypical view - it perpetuates the vicious circle.

Chris, Milton Keynes

Added: Friday, 15 September, 2006, 09:39 GMT 10:39 UK

The Pope was clearly quoting someone else, so this whole idea of him attacking the Islamic ideology is idiotic.

Being a muslim myself, I would advise others around the world to realise that no mater how close to our heart, our faith may be, those who dont' follow it are under no obligation whatsoever to respect, dignify or even accept such beliefs.

I request them to follow the example of none other than Mohammad (SAW) himself, to face harsh criticism and insults with dignity and forgiveness.

Ali Akbar, Stuttgart

Added: Friday, 15 September, 2006, 09:39 GMT 10:39 UK

Why should the Pope apologise for quoting literature? A representative of another religion only has to look at a Muslim to anger the whole Muslim community. We live in a democracy that values the right to freedom of speech. Why is it OK for muslims to demonstrate wearing suicide bomber outfits but the pope cannot even speak. Any excuse for Muslims to preach hate about the West!

Jim, Chesterfield

Added: Friday, 15 September, 2006, 09:39 GMT 10:39 UK

Seriously, muslims should stop being so insecure about their relegion.

Sunny, LA

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Friday, September 15, 2006

Dutch courage

Somebody understands. If you don't do this , someone might get hurt.
(hat tip: the incomparable Tim Blair).

The UN

"The observers had a logbook recording the assaults, bombings, and artillery attacks on the area. Each page was ruled in vertical columns: DATE, TIME, LOCATION, DAMAGE, CASUALTIES. The columns headed ACTION TAKEN BY THE UN were completely empty."
P J O'Rourke (1994), All The Trouble In The World: The lighter side of famine, pestilence, destruction and death. Sydney (Picador), 247

Still cleaning up after them

I'm not from the '60s generation.
My siblings were though.
I watched their friends.
Young people can be ruthless but perceptive-the young outsiders.
I knew what I was seeing.
Declaring their parents, their culture, their whole environment a disaster, whilst cashing the checks and demanding more.
This, don't forget, was the generation whose parents had fought a world war with millions dead, to protect them from totalitarianism and fascism.

They've grown up now - "Deadly spinach alert widens".
No they haven't, they just look older. PJ O'Rourke said "The real truth about children is they don't speak the language very well. They're physically uncoordinated. And they are ignorant of our elaborate ideas about right and wrong." The same applies to almost all ex-hippies.

Or better still - "
Everybody wants to save the earth; nobody wants to help Mom do the dishes."

We're still cleaning up the mess.

Silly little man

I couldn't bear to read any more details about David Cameron's `look at me, aren't I sophisticated' speech in support of the USA on September 11, but Melanie Phillips did, and so did Douglas Murray.

I know who I'd vote for.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Further cheery news on NATO

As EU Referendum happily reports, Poland has volunteered an extra 900 targets troops for Afghanistan. But not 'til February.

I thought I was gloomy but this is much worse:

"The Soviet campaign underlined the role of airlift for re-supply, the vital need for attack helicopters and all-weather, fixed wing ground attack aircraft and for high levels of mobility and firepower. These are precisely the assets which are most lacking in the current campaign.

Without this type of modern equipment necessary to fight a counterinsurgency, the fear is that the Polish forces may prove of little value and could instead be a liability, as indeed are the other forces – and especially the British – which simply do not have the equipment to do the job."

Iran doing so well - IAEA not so well

Well, good news from Right Wing Nut House:
"IAEA chairman Muhammad ElBaradei on Monday confirmed Israel’s assessment that Iran is only a few months away from creating an atomic bomb."

Oh wonderful! Everyone tells us there's years to play out the empty diplomatic posturing with a fundamentalist nutcase regime and the IAEA chairman tells us we have months.

I notice this is front page news in the UK.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Jihad is so `last year's news'

"Five years after 9/11 - the mainstream media refuses to consistently report who is at war with USA and the world and why."

This is one of the truly excellent posts on this week's Watcher's Council blog nominations.

How to do it

Mark Steyn recalls some guidance on modern etiquette.

Nato - we have a problem

"We're fighting a war in southern Afghanistan. This is not an enhanced peace support operation."

"Sources contacted by the BBC say that the British simply do not have sufficient men both to hold areas cleared of Taleban fighters and to mount mobile offensive operations."

The new head of the British Army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, has told the Guardian newspaper that his forces are only just coping with their multiple commitments.
If there are to be reinforcements then they will have to come from other Nato countries."

"The US has warned that Afghanistan is at risk of becoming a failed state unless Nato countries support its path towards democracy."

"Nato officials are to hold a "force generation conference" in Belgium on Wednesday to try to boost troop numbers."

We all know what that means-everybody staring at the floor, twiddling their thumbs and trying not to whistle.

In particular, the Germans have a lot of troops there but not in the south...

"In order to make foreign Bundeswehr deployments more palatable to voters, argues the center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the German government has long been giving these deployments the soft sell. "The government has reminded its citizens that the northern part of Afghanistan is quiet and not subject to the violence of other parts of the country," the paper writes."

"Noting that some anonymous sources within the ISAF alliance are putting pressure on Germany to send troops to the south, the center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung argues the country should be open to this idea. "Not a single day goes by without combat, not a week goes by without losses in the ranks of ISAF," the paper writes. "It's no wonder that amongst the NATO partners some are starting to view Germany with distrust." The Bundeswehr's mandate, the paper points out, already permits "limited support measures" in other parts of the countries if these measures irrefutably support the "fulfilment of the ISAF's total mission." The war in the south, the paper concludes, "is an irrefutable reality." "

Fantastic! No...o...o...t, as my children would have said before they became too sophisticated.

For more (and more informed) comment try EU Referendum.

UPDATE-15.50 GMT 13 Sep 2006
"No formal offer has been made by Nato states in response to requests by commanders in Afghanistan for 2,500 extra troops, Nato says."

Great: the thumb-twiddlers done good.