June 2010

30 June 2010
Are any Premiership players having a good World Cup? Obviously we know about the England team but what about the others? Drogba, Torres, Malouda, Evra, Vidic, van Persie: none of them have exactly set the tournament alight. Could it be that playing in the Premiership precludes being any good in international tournaments? Would rather explain the 4-1.

28 June 2010
The significance of Bloody Sunday and the difficulty in tracking down the mistake

Brian comments:

I’ve recently been very struck my EU Referendum’s criticisms of the Paras.

Undoing in a few violent minutes what took years to contrive. Armed thugs. That kind of thing.

Do you agree with him? Or is that kind of thing irrelevant also? (I don’t ask in a snearing way. I genuinely ask.)

Yes, I was very struck by what North had to say too. Especially his piece on Ballymurphy.  Clearly the Paras had form.

However, I’m not sure about this idea of “undoing” valuable work.  The days when soldiers were sharing cups of tea with the locals were long gone.  There was a fully-fledged IRA campaign already in existence.  There were several no-go areas which security forces would not normally enter and were controlled on a day-to-day basis by the IRA.  Almost 200 people had been killed in the previous year.  The situation had got so bad that the government had introduced internment - not a decision that they would have taken lightly even then.  So, the situation was pretty bad even without the Paras.

I can’t imagine they did a lot of good but I’m far from convinced that Bloody Sunday acted as a recruiting sergeant for the IRA - it was pretty strong already.

It think the real significance of Bloody Sunday was that it knocked Britain off the moral high ground.  When Britain tried to make its case the IRA could just turn round and say: “What about Bloody Sunday?” Worse still, it was very difficult for Britain to admit the mistake.  Loyalty works both ways.  If you want your soldiers to be loyal to you, you had better be loyal to them.  We’ve seen much the same sort of thinking more recently wih the rigging of the de Menezes inquest.  Other readers may remember the day SO19 (Scotland Yard’s snipers) went on strike after a couple of their colleagues were suspended.  In the case of the Paras they clearly believed they (and it is they) could get away with it.  Which implies that that belief was being reinforced by those in authority above them.  That raises questions that governments don’t like to answer. 

The IRA has a fundamental problem: it is a fascist organisation in a democratic age.  If you apply democratic principles through the Wilsonian doctrine of self-determination to Ulster you would have to say that Britain has no business governing the West Bank of the Foyle, South Armagh and West Belfast.  (There are other areas that I could probably mention especially in Tyrone but it starts to get very complicated so I won’t).  What the IRA has been trying to do for 40 years is to use that injustice as a wedge to secure the fascist aim of getting the rest of Ulster into a united Ireland.

So, the answer is to withdraw from nationalist areas?  To my mind yes but there are problems.  Since 1945 states have been incredibly reluctant to alter borders.  That’s one of the reasons Africa is such a mess, with borders crossing tribal lines and bringing together under one governmental roof all sorts of people eg the Shona and Matabele, who don’t get on.  I think this reluctance has something to do with the experience of the 1930s but I’m really not sure.  The other problem is working out what constitutes a “nationalist” area.  Would they include places like the Fountain in Londonderry, Suffolk in West Belfast and Enniskillen? all of them oases of unionism in deserts of nationalism.

27 June 2010
Fact of the Day

Germany has outperformed England in every World Cup since 1966.

23 June 2010
Government science doesn't work. It is something that Terence Kealey has been saying for over 20 years and every time he does it gets that little bit better. This time: why there was no American aircraft industry in 1914, despite the fact that they'd invented it; how they became dominant; and why they went into decline after 1975.

22 June 2010
The Troubles had nothing to do with civil rights

I see in the light of the Saville Report some people have been claiming that the Northern Ireland Troubles were caused by the denial of civil rights to Catholics in the 1960s.  It is a very common claim and has become part of the “official” history.  Unfortunately, it is wrong.

Let us begin with the standard story.  This claims that Ulster’s Catholics suffered from discrimination in jobs, housing and elections.  Occasionally, the issue of the B Specials gets added to the list.  The Catholics protested, their protests were attacked, they responded by rioting and the Troubles started.  Later on the IRA joined the fray.

Unfortunately, there seem to be some inconsistencies even with this story.  First of all, why would anyone want to discriminate on the grounds of religion in the 1960s?  The 1690s maybe.  But 300 years later?  Secondly, even if you did want to discriminate, how would you know what religion job applicants or housing applicants were?

The next problem is that the claim was falsified.  An equal employment commission was set up.  Government housing was taken out of the hands of councils and put in the hands of the British Government.  The voting laws were changed to bring them into line with those on the other side of the Irish Sea.  The B Specials were abolished.  And yet the IRA campaign continued.

The next problem is that large parts of the original claim were untrue.  Or at least, they missed bits out.  Were Londonderry Corporation’s boundaries gerrymandered in August 1969 (when the Troubles started)?  No.  I can say that with absolute confidence because Londonderry Corporation had been abolished earlier that year.  Was there discrimination in housing?  Difficult to say, the only reasonably comprehensive survey I am aware of forms part of Richard Rose’s Governing Without Consensus.  He found some differences but only minor ones.  If you want a fuller account of this have a look at Paul Kingsley’s Londonderry Revisited if you can find it.

So, what’s the real explanation for 30 years and 3000 dead?

Nationality, ethnicity and borders.  There are two nations in Ulster: the Irish and the British.  They don’t get on.  They don’t trust one another.  Sure, on a personal level there are plenty of examples of individual Irishmen getting on with individual Britons but on a collective level?  Hell no.  Each nation wants to live under a state it feels it can trust.  The Ulster British want that state to be Britain.  The Ulster Irish want that state to be the Republic of Ireland.  That’s been true for at least 150 years.

Father Dennis Faul was once asked why all the reforms since 1969 hadn’t made a great deal of difference.  I can’t remember his exact words but it was something like: “The facts don’t matter, the perceptions do.” In other words the Ulster Irish will think ill of the British no matter what.  Enoch Powell once said: “Nationality is what you feel.” The point of both these statements is that you can’t change someone’s nationality.  It’s not amenable to reason.

So, don’t try.

But I digress.  The point is that nations and states were always the issue.  Civil rights were simply tactically convenient.

20 June 2010
Another egregious example of vuvuzelaphobia:
The vuvuzela really took off in 2001 when Masincedane Sport started mass marketing a plastic version of it, an act that was called “unconscionable” by people who sell tainted crack to schoolchildren
"Enough!" I say. I rather like them. Though I may be the only one.

19 June 2010
The lessons of Bloody Sunday

Well, the real lesson is that we shouldn’t have states.  No states, no disagreements about which state should govern what territory, no terrorist campaigns, no army deployments.  But short of that libertarian nirvana the lesson ought to be that if you think you need troops to police an area eg the Bogside, then you probably shouldn’t be there at all.  Or don’t try to govern people who don’t want you to govern them.

Also, interesting article on Bloody Sunday over on EU Referendum - all about colonial chickens coming home to roost.  And another one which links to good article by Kevin Myers about the Paras and their extraordinary brutality. 

14 June 2010
Nuclear weapons. You thought they were just for preventing Cold Wars getting hot. But no. It turns out they're for ending oil spills too.

Is there nothing they can't do?

It's the FIFA World Cup™. Not the World Cup. No, the FIFA World Cup™. Which tells us two important things:

1. FIFA is very powerful because it can get people to say this. And
2. FIFA is very stupid because it wants people to say this.

Which rather helps to confirm (pace Nassim Taleb) my belief that sports governing bodies are the worst organisations on the planet.

12 June 2010
Why Rothbard was “anti-war”

I was having a chat with Brian Micklethwait the other night about anti-war libertarianism - no, still haven’t come up with a better term for it - and particularly the role of Murray Rothbard.  Brian reckons - and I hope I am not misrepresenting him here - that much of Rothbard’s motivation was down to his study of Lenin.

You see, Rothbard wanted to instigate a revolution - a libertarian one but a revolution all the same.  So, he looked around for successful revolutionaries.  And the most successful of all was Lenin.  Rothbard noted that in the biggest war in history to date, and despite the fact that his country was a whole-hearted participant, Lenin refused to take sides.  So Rothbard - according to Brian and the faulty logic is plain to see here - drew the conclusion that when it comes to war the libertarian revolutionary should always back the opposition to his “own” side.

Rothbard was a New York Jew.  And Brian got used to the idea that in any given dispute Rothbard would inevitably support the side that least resembled New York Jews.

Of course, none of this means that Rothbard’s published views on war are wrong - just highly suspect.

11 June 2010
Why does the BBC think that the World Cup started in 1986?

Some of you may have been watching “The World Cup’s most shocking moments” on BBC3.  I know I was.  It was, as the title implied, a countdown of what the producers reckoned were the 50 most shocking things to ever happen in the tournament.  “Great”, I thought “We’ll get to relive England 0 USA 1; Spain 0 Northern Ireland 1; West Germany 0 East Germany 1, the Battle of Berne and the Battle of Santiago.

But no.

It seemed that as far as the producers were concerned the World Cup started in 1986.  There was not a mention of anything before that - well, apart that is, from Scotland’s 1978 World Cup song ("We’ll really shake ‘em up when we win the World Cup.") which in my ideal world would be mentioned at all times and everywhere, World Cup or not.

So, what was going on?  It could be that the producers felt that anything before 1986 would be boring and “irrelevant” to a modern audience.  But I doubt it.  If there’s one thing that generates an interest in history in young men it’s football.

I think the real reason is that they couldn’t get permission to use the footage. Which in itself is odd.  I understand that if you want to show anything in Formula One since 1980 you have to get Bernie Ecclestone’s permission.  And I wonder if a similar process was going on here but in reverse.

The other oddity was that they could show every second of the last World Cup final except the one in which Zidane headbutted Matarazzi.  Now, to give them their due they did say they couldn’t show it.  At which I thought “Fantastic.  I’ve kept a tape of the game.  I’ll have to arrange a screening.  It’ll be like Clockwork Orange all over again.” So, you can imagine my disappointment when I saw the headbutt in all its glory ITV4.  Which rather made me wonder why the BBC chose to lie about it.

10 June 2010
If you have a right to fight you have the right to win.  Discuss.

I am currently rather pre-occupied with what I would rather not call libertarian anti-war theory.  Examples of this include this podcast by Ralph Raico on the First World War, his piece on the Blockade of Germany and this article by Murray Rothbard.

“If you have a right to fight you have the right to win.” is for the time being my riposte.