March 2007

30 March 2007
The Algerian War. There's an insurgency, the French pile in, kill lots of innocent people, plug the rest into the mains and then lose. About the only positive to come out of it being the background to The Day of the Jackal. Yes?

Actually, no. The French were winning. So too, according to this article by Arthur Herman, were the Americans in Vietnam. And the strategy used in those two wars is pretty much what is being tried out in Baghdad.

Will it be third time lucky?

(Hat-tip: Pajamas Media)

29 March 2007
Guido wanders into lion’s den.  Gets eaten.

Guido was on Newsnight last night.  Seems he had been offered his own slot along with panel discussion and he took it.  Big mistake.

I’ll come to Guido’s pre-record later.  It was the panel discussion, with Jeremy Paxman in the chair and Michael White of the Guardian as guest, that did the damage.  Guido’s attempts to conceal his identity have always been amusing.  I think I managed to work out who he was in about five minutes.  But to persist with it on the show when everyone knows who he is was ludicrous. 

You have to imagine the scene.  Guido is in shadow with the exception of his trademark flash of Dickie Davies-like grey hair.

“Why do you conceal your identity?”, asked Paxo.

“So that people can’t recognise me.” Or something like that.  Yeah, that flash of grey is so common that I have to dredge out a TV personality from the 70s to illustrate who I am talking about.

Two minutes later White had spilled the beans anyway.  Guido is Paul Staines.  Golly, who would have thought it?

All along the Paxo/White tag team managed to make Guido look petty and inconsistent.

Now the pre-record was sort of OK but its central argument - that journalists are far too cozy with ministers - while true enough, was insipid.  Here was his opportunity to go on national television and give the world the hardcore libertarian line - that politicians are a bunch of good-for-nothing parasites and the sooner that they find alternative employment sweeping streets the better - and he didn’t even attempt it.

But the real problem was always with the panel discussion.  The golden rule with panel discussions - a rule that until yesterday Guido understood and does once again today - is don’t do them.  They give the producers much too much power and allow them to claim balance while giving the debate a slant rarely seen since the final moments of the Titanic.

Ah, Guido agrees.  Sort of.

28 March 2007
Public v. Private

Wat Tyler:

Project One- “Construction on the £4.3 billion Heathrow Terminal 5 complex began in 2002. Since when, the project has successfully moved 9 million cubic metres of earth; erected the roof of UK’s biggest free-standing building; transported the 900-tonne top cab of a new 87m high control tower 2km across the airfield; bored over 13km of tunnels for rail and baggage; diverted two rivers; and installed over 30,000 sq metres of glass facades. All T5’s footprint is contained within a former sewage works at the western end of the existing airport, situated between the two runways, adjacent to the M25.

With 366 days to go (leap year in 2008), over 90% of construction-related work is complete and the project remains on time and on budget.”

Project Two- The £800m Wembley stadium finally opened for business. It’s nearly seven years since the last game at the old stadium. The project has been delivered a year late, and around £200m over budget.

Actually, it’s even more than £200m.

25 March 2007
Time for a change

Did you put your clocks forward today?  Did you perhaps take your life in your hands as you mounted a rickety chair in order to retrieve that hard-to-reach electric number?  Did you thumb through rarely consulted manuals in search of that seemingly magic sequence of key strokes that will allow you to once again record CSI?  In doing so, did you teach your children some new words, words that they really oughtn’t to know?  And do you have that haunting feeling that somehow, somewhere there’s one that you missed, a figurative time bomb with literal ticks, whose temporal eccentricity will do dreadful things to you at some unspecified date in the future? 

Well, I thought about it and decided to give it a miss.

I’ve had enough of this biannual nonsense of knob twiddling, button pressing and showing up late for Sunday lunch. From now on, or until such time as I lose my job, I’m going to be sticking to good old Greenwich Mean Time, or, as I shall henceforth be calling it for the purposes of clarity: Patrick Mean Time.

If we really need to enjoy long, summer evenings then our employers will have every incentive to provide us with an effective pay rise by bringing normal working hours back by an hour.

But what we do not need is a law that has its origins in the need to increase munitions production during the Great War.

So, the CrozierWatch will keep its time as all those around it lose theirs and its owner will have the added benefit that should he ever find himself chronologically embarrassed over the next few months he can always blame it on PMT.

24 March 2007
Still ill

Squander Two’s accounts last year of his wife’s never-ending string of illnesses and the appalling treatment she received at the hands of the NHS were, at times, heartbreaking.  I was kind of getting used to the idea that things might be getting better.  As it happens they are getting better.  But there’s still the odd setback and the NHS hasn’t changed a bit.  See here and here.

23 March 2007
In defence of Al Gore

I notice that not a few bloggers have taken a look at the gargantuan emissions associated with Al Gore’s house, air travel etc and accused the climate change campaigner of hypocrisy.

Now, much as this is fun, knockabout stuff and helps silence a man who could benefit from a few moments of quiet reflection, there’s just one small teensy-weensy problem with it.

It’s not hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy means saying one thing and doing another.  But that is not what the former Senator is doing.  What Gore is saying is that emissions should in the future be cut by the use of coercive measures such as tax and regulation.  Presumably, he would be happy to accept the consequences of such measures even if they affected him personally.  Judging by the energy consumption of his house this could end up being quite expensive.  But seeing as those measures are still some way in the future he can hardly be accused of hypocrisy in the here and now.

Now, if he were to be, in some way, opposing emission controls on the quiet or seeking to avoid having to personally pay the price, then he would, indeed, be a hypocrite - but to the best of my knowledge he is doing neither of these things and I have no reason to think that he is.

Frankly, Al Gore, in this case at least, is no more of a hypocrite than I am for using the NHS or state-regulated trains.

UpdateBrian makes the point, albeit in a roundabout, you’ve-got-to-follow-the-link kind of way, that Gore is not quite as white (or should that be green?) as all that.  Gore talks about dealing with climate change as a “moral imperative”, and therefore an individual responsibility.  So, he’s guilty as charged and I take it all back.

22 March 2007
How I love EU (at 50), let me number the ways…

The BBC comes up with 10, which Rob Fisher fisks.

The Indie comes up with 50, which Tim Worstall, for the most part, fisks (hat-tip Comment Central).

Scott Burgess also has a go.

21 March 2007
"Don't fight the police", says The Copper.

He's right. I know: I've tried. Adonis, my ex-copper colleague, was very kind enough to give me some lessons a few weeks back - or perhaps that should be that I was kind enough to give him some practice, I am not quite sure. Either way, I learnt my lesson pretty quickly: the police know how to take care of themselves.

One of the fun techniques he showed me was how to deal with a sit-down protester in five seconds flat. Using one knuckle. I'm not going to forget that in a hurry. It may go some way to explaining why sit-down protests are something of a rarity these days.

18 March 2007
I am very much enjoying History According to Bob, Professor Bob Packett's series of historical podcasts. Here he is on the evolution of the calendar.

No round-up this week - I'm going to wait until I have a bit more material.

17 March 2007
Another challenge to Steyn

It’s taken a while but at last people are starting to put up some serious challenges to Mark Steyn’s Europe-is-doomed theory.  Johnathan Pearce had a go last week.  This week it’s the Social Affairs Unit’s Marc Sidwell.

He takes the view that numbers don’t really matter all that much:

The triumph of the West is one long refutation of [Steyn’s] argument. As Exhibit A, just take a look at 300, the new blockbuster remake of the Battle of Thermopylae as envisioned by graphic novelist Frank Miller. Once more, we see all the slave armies of the East marched out upon tiny Greece - and humiliated by the sacrifice of three hundred free men.

Don’t think it quite happened like that.  Thermopylae was, after all, a defeat.  But point taken.  And with Trident you don’t even need 300 men - one index finger will do just fine.

So long as someone has the will to use it, that is.  And you’re not aiming it at your own major population centres.

16 March 2007
Party on dEUde

Never thought I’d see Richard North write this:

A few years back, the EU dominated our thinking but now, as my co-editor observed, over a meal in our favourite London restaurant, it seems a distant irrelevance. It is merely a noxious irritant, filed under “unfinished business” that sooner or later must be sorted out, when our politicians finally realise that it offers nothing and costs us a fortune.

Or:

No amount of rhetoric or freebies is going to restore the drive afforded by the vision of its original founders. This is an organisation that has nowhere to go but down.

You can almost smell the (CAP-subsidised) cannabis fumes.  For what it’s worth, I’ve been lolling on the bean bag of indifference on the whole EU thing for some time.  But I’m not sure I want North and Szamuely to be joining me.  There needs to be at least somebody keeping lookout.

Not that I think we need to worry too much.  Like a bucket of iced water poured over the head, the EU is bound to do something stupid soon and snap our watchdog out of his stupor.

But it’ll be fun while it lasts.  Man.

15 March 2007
Unlearning

Adriana addresses a worthy but is still in no mood for taking prisoners:

Individuals often have more control over the online environment than off-line. Paradoxically, many commentators bemoan the fact that people online are self-obsessed, they talk about the echo chamber. At the same time, they also complain about the lack of awareness, sophistication and professionalism of online interactions. Both may be (and are) true but this points to something else that is going on - people are learning something. They are learning self-determination and unlearning decades of one-way communication and mass broadcasting. The ability to express and respond to things on their own terms and their own way is what this is about.

“...unlearning decades of one-way communication and mass broadcasting.” Yes.  Yes, indeed.

11 March 2007
In case you haven’t already…

I don’t think I’ve ever used one of these round-ups to link to Samizdata before.  My guess is that anyone who comes here also goes there.  And also because - for various technical reasons - Samizdata articles tend to slip through the net, round-up wise.

But I think there is a principle here.  If this is to be any good as a round-up I should be giving space to articles I like even if every single reader has already read them.  This is where to find the best articles in the Blogosphere, n’importe quoi.

Anyway, Samizdata is always good but this week I particularly liked:

Thaddeus Tremayne’s piss take of David Cameron’s Europe policy; Brian Micklethwait on that global warming documentary and Johnathan Pearce’s challenge to Mark Steyn on the subject of demographics:

...as people get richer and no longer have to rely on big families to support parents in their dotage, birth rates fall. It seems to happen pretty much everywhere, including in those countries with very different religious and cultural traditions.

Right, enough of Samizdata.  Now for what has been going on elsewhere:

  1. Adriana doesn’t think much of television:

    I stopped watching TV a few years back soon after I started blogging on Samizdata.net [did I speak too soon?]. These days when I switch it on for whatever reason, it feels oddly one-way and restrictive. You can’t choose what and when you are watching something you are interested in, the controls are pathetic compared to what I am used to online.

    That’s exactly how I feel about television these days.  Who else one wonders?

  2. Christopher Hitchens writes on Ayaan Hirsi Ali and “bogus equivalences”.

  3. Douglas Murray reviews Nick Cohen’s new book and picks out this gem:

    I feel like a class traitor when I say it but the first lesson from the “heroic” age of the Left in the Thirties is that it never works like that in a conflict in which your own society is involved. You can be a critical friend of one side or another, a very critical friend as often as not, but you have to choose which side you are on, and those who don’t usually end up as the biggest villains of all.

  4. And finally… Latvia: they do things differently there

    image

10 March 2007
TV Alert: The Trap: What Happened to Our Dreams of Freedom

Uh oh, this looks bad:

Individual freedom is the dream of our age. But if one steps back and looks at what freedom actually means for us today, it’s a strange and limited kind of freedom.

And:

It will show how a simplistic model of human beings as self-seeking, almost robotic, creatures led to today’s idea of freedom. This model was derived from ideas and techniques developed by nuclear strategists during the Cold War. It was then taken up by genetic biologists, anthropologists, radical psychiatrists and free market economists, until it became a new system of invisible control.

They’re taking our word.  The bastards.  I suppose it is a compliment to the 19th century liberals that the Marxists had to take their word and make it mean something quite different.  Confucius may or may not have said: “When words lose their meaning, people lose their freedom.” But what happens when freedom loses its meaning?

The Trap: What Happened to Our Dreams of Freedom, Sunday, 2100-2200, BBC2

07 March 2007
Croziervision Podcast #2: Antoine Clarke on elections and the internet is now up.

06 March 2007
Global warming and why libertarians should never say “never”

I see Channel 4’s going to broadcasting an Equinox special on Thursday challenging the consensus over global warming.  I also see that leading dark age economics campaigner, George Monbiot, has been getting in his retaliation first.  Somehow, I doubt if he’ll be alone.  The really stinging criticism (from my point of view, at least) is that the producer of the programme is mixed up in the Spiked (formerly known as the Revolutionary Communist Party) crowd.

Might be an idea for libertarians not to nail their colours too firmly to this particular mast.

For other reasons too.  Although I am a global warming sceptic (largely, ahem, as a consequence of a 1991 Equinox documentary), I have the attitude of “Never say never”.  It could be happening.  It could be a bad thing - it’s bound to be bad for somebody.  It could be caused by humans.  Not that I think that’s a problem.

Update 9/3/07 Brian Micklethwait says something very similar but better.

04 March 2007
In case you haven’t already…

Here are a few of the items I enjoyed this week:

  1. Tony Blair holds a summit on gun crime but somehow fails to invite Rob Fisher: “I know the solution, and it is really very easy and straightforward. Drum roll please. Are you ready? Legalise drugs.  No-one ever got shot over cigarettes, alcohol, or anything you can buy for £2.99 from Boots.”

  2. Jeremy Black has a couple of good articles on the First World War.  Here and here.

  3. Also from the Social Affairs Unit, William Rubinstein offers an historical perspective on the current cash for honours scandal.

  4. Live Aid: “Fund-raising event which helps needy African dictators enlarge their fleets of Mercedes, while simultaneously enabling white, midole class people to demonstrate conspicuous compassion.” Harry Phibbs reviews How to be Right: The Essential Guide to Making Lefty Liberals History.

  5. Stewart Brand, environmentalist heretic. (hat-tip: Instapundit)

  6. Want to get ahead in the USA?  Easy: brag.  OK, so that’s a bit of an over-simplification of a thought-provoking, if long, article.  (Hat-tip: Instapundit)

  7. An academic bemoans the state of British education before the Guardian journalist interviewing him proceeds to prove it: “It’s superficial stuff, fine for the general populous,...” Oooh.

  8. “At last, a machine fully compatible with Windows Vista.” Heh.