June 2007

29 June 2007
Do I really go around saying crikey?

Apparently so.

Crikey.

12 June 2007
The Black Dad Phenomenon

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Tiger Woods
Michael Jackson
The Williams Sisters
Five Star (for those of you of a certain age)

And now…

Lewis Hamilton

All highly - almost unbelievably - successful.  In each case their fathers have been heavily involved in their success.

Are there any other examples?  Does Colin Powell, for instance, fall into this category?

Is this a black thing?  I am struggling to bring to mind any whites who have had similar success let alone ones with a similarly influential father figure. [By the way, and before anyone points this out to me, I am aware that Lewis Hamilton is as white as he is black and that Woods is as Thai as he is black.  It’s the ethnicity of the father I find interesting.]

Is it the only black thing?  Can you be black and massively successful without an influential father?

Is it a Western Atlantic thing?  I am struggling to think of any Africans who fall into this category.

Whatever the cause, for the time being it is enough to sit back enjoy a brilliant driver and (what appears to be) a smashing bloke continue to rewrite the record books.

08 June 2007
Some conference vignettes

A few little fact- and thought- ettes I picked up from last weekend’s conference:

“Buying health insurance is like insuring against your tyres wearing out.” It’s going to happen.  Insurance is really there for the catastrophic and unexpected.  Like appendicitis, for instance…

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In Switzerland a few years ago they made health insurance compulsory.  Prices doubled overnight.

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They also introduced laws against carrying guns in public.  Street crime rocketed.  Home invasions, where guns and their use remained legal, did not.

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In a lecture on the EU.  I paraphrase: “European politicians love to be able to tell their publics that the EU has forced them to introduce such and such an unpopular measure.” Seeing as I’d never heard a British politician say this I had to ask.  Turns out that the British are unique in this.  They will never admit that Brussels has tied their hands.

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The Berlin government is £40bn in debt.  That’s about £14,000 for each inhabitant.  Makes the Shinkansens sound cheap.

07 June 2007
If one small part of the global warming debate is doubtful what about the rest of it?

At the Berlin conference last weekend Ernst Beck gave a talk on the history of CO2.  In essence what he said was that it was a crock.  CO2 concentrations haven’t gone up at all and there’s nothing to worry about.

I’ve heard this sort of thing before.  There are all sorts of dissenting scientific viewpoints out there stretching from “There is no global warming” to “There is global warming and it’ll be a good thing”.  And then the economists get going with the debate over prevention versus adaptation.  It all leaves me a bit cold.  My problem is that libertarians spend much too much time trying to deny global warming rather than engaging on the level of “What if it’s true...” It smacks of running away from the debate which to my mind is a sure-fire way of losing it.

So, on the level of conclusions, I wasn’t all that hot on Beck’s talk.  But it did make me think.  It was how he went about his research.  He pointed out that:

  • the leading proponent of the increased CO2 concentration argument carried out his research on a volcano
  • many of the early measurements were carried out incorrectly
  • much data has been ignored
  • CO2 concentrations vary both by time of day and by lunar cycle
  • there are doubts about the accuracy of the ice core record

There were probably a few other problems with the CO2 argument that I have since forgotten.

What struck me was that it seemed that will never be able to pin this stuff down.  And this is in only one tiny part of the case.  If there are doubts here then there are bound to be similar doubts in all the other areas.

For some time I have been arguing that global warming is something that could be dealt with by the courts but I am beginning to doubt if even they would be able to come to any firm conclusions.

06 June 2007
The beginning of the end marks the beginning of (another) end

The BBC screened a documentary on the Battle of Amiens the other day - part of a series fronted by Peter and Dan Snow.  Amiens the British-led battle of 1918 that marked the beginning of the end of the war. Ludendorff described it as “the black day of the German Army” before suffering a nervous breakdown.

The documentary itself may well mark the beginning of the end of the “Donkey” school of history.  This is the school of thought that the British Army was made up of lions led by donkeys who continually ordered their men into futile frontal assaults - a school which has been so intellectually dominant for so long that its views have seeped into the popular culture in the form Blackadder goes Forth and, indeed, last weekend’s, otherwise rather good, Doctor Who.

It is the first time, that I am aware of, that a television documentary has allowed itself to believe that the British Army of 1918 was not just competent but actually rather good.  The Snows talked about tanks (I had no idea that the crews had to be taken to field hospital after a stint in one), creeping barrages and the role of aircraft, but most importantly they talked about how all these elements were co-ordinated.  Perhaps most impressively, they made the point that the modern British Army makes use of exactly the same principles today.

While overall, an excellent documentary there were a couple of things that I wasn’t entirely happy about:

1.  They described Ludendorff as a “strategist”.  That was the problem - he wasn’t.  Indeed, I am pretty sure he’s quoted as denying the need for a strategy.

2.  They spent a lot of time on the Ludendorff offensive but got no nearer to answering my question as to why the Allies found themselves in such a strong position come mid-1918.

3.  No mention of the RAF’s losses.  Apparently they lost some enormous number at Amiens.  “The black day of the RAF” as it is sometimes known.

4.  No mention of the revolution in infantry arms and tactics.  Soldiers of 1918 would have had access to a whole range of equipment - such as Lewis guns, mortars, grenades and helmets that either didn’t exist or only existed in tiny quantities in 1914.

But this is relatively small beer and we have to be aware that in an hour-long documentary there is only so much that you can cover.  The point is that the point is that the British Army knew their business. And that is a good thing.

04 June 2007
I was in Berlin over the weekend for a libertarian conference. Berlin. Yes, Berlin. Is there a name like it? Did anywhere have the 20th Century done to it like Berlin?

I was rather hoping, as you do, that actually being there would give me some deep insights into history and Germany today. But it didn't. It may yet, but nothing right now. In the meantime I may (no promises) blog about some of the things that came up.