Wednesday, August 31, 2005

DK continues the Economic Revolution

Ok, in this post we move onto the vexed question of local taxes. Firstly however, prompted by some comments, and this post at Rhetorically Speaking, I shall amend my Citizen's Allowance idea. Some people have pointed at cost, and bookdrunk doesn't like the idea of giving money back to wealthy people. I, however, dislike the disruption that the stop-start model creates.

However, given these points, I shall concede; I propose that the Citizen's Allowance should cease once someone is earning over, let's say, £90,000 a year. They should, given this salary, have some savings put by which could help them through a couple of lean weeks. Should they be made redundant or be sacked, they should be able to take proof of that and restart their CA almost immediately though (should they desire to do so). Does that make everyone happier?

Anyway, on to local taxes, or rather, as far as most people are concerned, the local tax: Council Tax. Now, I may be moving onto dangerous ground here, because a serious reform of local taxes significantly affects the way in which local democracy works.

For instance, my initial idea was to just scrap the Council Tax entirely, and have everything administered from central government. However, I was instinctively against that, since there are problems of regionalisation and accountability. Besides, I am instinctively against central administration.

But nor do I support a local income tax as proposed, for instance, by the Scottish Socialist Party (mainly because I utterly disagree with everything that they stand for). This is for two reasons: firstly, the amount of administration would be huge, and wasteful; secondly, I'm not keen on letting two lots of government administrators know the details of what I earn.

So what might be the solution? Councils are currently partly funded by central government anyway; I think that the entirety of their money might have to come from this source. That way, we have a "fair" tax (those who earn the most, pay the most) without two lots of administration. Local councils would submit two requests each year; the first would be the cost for basic services (rubbish-collection, street-cleaning, staff costs, etc.). The second would be for special circumstances; projects that need doing, new development plans, etc. Councils would be allowed to keep any money that they make from running private businesses (e.g. Lothian buses) from year to year, although they would still have to be not-for-profit organisations. There would also be an emergency pot which would carry over from year to year.

However, I am fairly unsure about this solution; if anyone has a better suggestion then do post it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

DK's Inherited Economics

Another thing that my Marxist friend highlighted as an election winner was the scrapping of Inheritance Tax. That this iniquitous tax be abolished goes without saying.

Inheritance Tax is morally reprehensible, since those things that are inherited have been taxed many times already. I should remind you that Inheritance Tax is calculated on the value of all possessions of the deceased, not just liquid assets. Your father dies, and everything that he possesses is assessed by a probate officer; his house (which may have accumulated value through no fault of yours or his), that carriage clock you had your eye on, the carpet, those shares that he bought with his redundancy money back in 1978, everything. You are then taxed roughly 30% on anything over £270,000 or so. The income to the Treasury, compared to the ill-feeling that it generates, is tiny (and don't forget that funeral costs are subject to VAT (which luckily we are already scrapping)).

Furthermore, Inheritance Tax, or Death Duties as it is sometimes called, is damaging economically. Most people have income of a sort; what they do not have is capital. It is a lack of capital that makes it hard to buy a house or start a business. Additionally, one of the ways that people attempt to avoid Inheritance Tax is to put the capital into an administered trust. This makes it far more difficult to get the money out, locking millions of pounds out of the economy. Furthermore, what is the point of saving for your children if they are going to be hit by a massive tax bill (and I think that the bill must be settled before you can come into possession of the estate)? Abolish Inheritance Tax, allow people to keep their capital, and encourage them to save their money.

DK's Value Added Economics

Following a random discussion in Cloisters with a Marxist called Nick, I have decided to return to the vexed issue of the Value Added Tax (I also need to address the issue of local taxes, which I shall do in due course). Firstly, Nick seemed to generally agree with the ideas that I laid out here and here (I suggest that you read them in order, as the second answers questions raised by the first).

In this comment I said that I didn't want to scrap VAT because
For many on the Left, VAT is a wonderful tax, since it only penalises people on what they actually spend.

However, my Marxist friend pointed out that there is essentially a minimum amount of money that one needs to live (much as there is a minimum setup charge in lithoprinting). This means that the poor essentially pay a higher amount of tax proportionally than do the rich. Now, I'm not a Marxist, but I can see that this is not an ideal situation; but the main point is that, if we are trying to get elected, maybe socialists are not, actually, going to be so keen on keeping VAT. However, my point about trying not to change too many variables all at once still stands. So, what do we do?

Well, I think that the first thing that we have to establish is roughly how much VAT is worth to the Treasury, and how much it costs to administer it. I have been unable to find any hard figures at present (if anyone has any, then please let me know and I'll post them) but my guess is that, which the amount that it costs business to administer (believe me, I know) and the ludicrous merry-go-round necessary to do so, the actual cost to the economy as a whole, outweighs the benefits. Now, some countries, such as Gibralter, have negotiated VAT exemption from the EU (for VAT is a compulsory EU tax). It seems to me that we should do away with the VAT at the same time that we implement our Flat Tax regime.

It would be politically desirable to do so, too. Let's say we introduced our Flat Tax at my proposed rate of 33% and then found at a later stage that, to abolish VAT, we would have to raise our flat tax level, then this may create a perception that we are increasing taxes. This is obviously not desirable since, at this stage, we would probably be close to a General Election. It is true that we could bank on getting a second term; however, this should not be risked. Should we not be returned to government then we would have left a job half done and, on a personal level, I hate doing that!

It seems that we would be wise to spend a little extra time deliberating on the exact level of Flat Tax, Personal Allowance and Citizen's Allowance before introducing the measures wholesale. The rate of Flat Tax should be set higher than need anticipates, since things can always go wrong. It is far better to be elected, keep the rate high to cope with any emergencies and then lower the rate over the life of our government. We can then point to the fact that taxes have been lowered over the course of our parliament. To find that taxes need to be raised close to a General Election would be disastrous in terms of gaining a second term.

A little more of what you like...

UPDATE: in order to keep these series of essays together, I have shifted these first two up the index page.

In reference to my post about my new economic world order, Rhetorically Speaking has a post questioning a few things. So some swift, off-the-top-of-my-head (which is how I always write anyway) answers.

I need a little more time to digest his master plan but there's one small point of clarification that I shall try to extract - whether the flat tax system would apply solely to earned income (wages) or whether it would also include unearned income (dividends, interest etc.).

The 33% rate would apply to your total income, which would include earned and unearned income. Now, I can see where there could be a problem in terms of, for instance, dividends being paid every six months rather than monthly. However, a tax return would be very, very easy to fill in, e.g.
  • Q1) What was your total income (earned and unearned) from 1/4/04 to 1/4/05? NOTE: If you have earned less than £12,000, you do not owe any tax. If you have earned more than £12,000, please go to Q2.

  • Q2) Deduct £12,000 from your stated income. Go to Q3.

  • Q3) Divide by 3 the figure obtained after the £12,000 deduction*. Go to Q4.

  • Q4) This is the tax that you owe.

If any of you have ever filled out an income tax form recently, you'll know that they are presently considerably more difficult than this; you have to fill out endless details about benefits, pensions, overseas monkey-houses owned, donkeys ridden (in any sense, go to question 74,000, do not pass go, definitely don't collect £200, that's ours, thank you very much, etc.). It is a nightmare. This is partly what I meant about alleviating administrative costs: these things take time. Either it costs your time, which could be spent far more productively, or you have to pay an accountant to do it for you. Either way, there's a significant cost burden. So, simplicity all the way.
The idea of scrapping all means tested tax credits also tends to make me feel sickly if it means guaranteeing a daily stipend for people who are already more than able to support themselves. It might be fair, but it also feels stupid - given that the middle-class would functionally subsidise the rich (presumably as a change to only subsidising the poor, I hear DK reply).

So true. The trouble is, the more complicated you make the system, the more people it takes to administer it. Administration costs money, in terms of labour (of both victim happy payer of the taxes and of the government employees), photocopying, postage, printing of forms, telephone calls, etc. After all this, the amount that you are going to save by denying the Citizen's Allowance to someone who doesn't need it is absolutely tiny. Then this person gets the sack (it does happen. Even to merchant bankers), and you have to go through the rigmarole again, to restart his CA (meanwhile he has no money, which takes away the point of it). Then, just as you've started up his CA again he gets another job which means he doesn't need the CA and you go through the whole thing again. Money lost, people's time wasted.

Plus, the people at the Tax Office pushing paper around are not economically productive. Whilst they are pushing paper around for the government, they are not starting their own business, or even working for someone else's cash- and therefore, tax-generating business and are thus a double drain on the economy. Remember, government has no money but yours: governments don't generate money, they consume it.

Quite apart from that a person being paid £100,000 a year will pay considerably more tax than someone earning 30,000. On an objective basis, leaving aside any social conscience, who should get more back again, the person who's paid more in, or the person who has paid less? If I pay £5 for some apples (the CAP, y'see!), in all fairness, should I get more apples than someone who pays £1? If you are feeling "sickly", how do you like them apples? Hahaha! I crack me up, I really do...!
I also have one of those 'sounds nice but makes us bankrupt' feelings about the numbers which (DK admits) are drawn from thin air.

I'm sure an economist could pluck some realistic figures out of the air, but if we assume 40 million people in Britain qualify for the £100 a week, that's £4 billion a week. Our arse of a Chancellor's spending budget this year is, what, £450 billion? That works out at around £8.6 billion a week. OK, you've only got £4.6 billion a week left, but you are cutting jobs at a rate of knots and they aren't costing you any more in benefits because you are already paying them their benefits as standard. Woo! For instance, there are now roughly 850,000 more people working for the government than there were in 1997 (and let's assume that they are all extraneous). Let's assume an average salary of £30,000: that comes to £25.5 billion; if you sack 'em, that's a saving of £490 million a week. Or, the really big one is the NHS, on which our Cyclopean Chancellor is currently spending £90 billion a year (2.3 times what it was in 1997): this equates to £1.7 billion a week (which could be better spent anyway).

However, how your tax take would alter, I don't quite know. You might have something of the Lawson experience although the Adam Smith Institute article that I linked to reckoned on a £50 billion shortfall; but then they were proposing a Flat Rate of 22% (but still with a £12,000 Personal Allowance). I reckon that my initial rate of 33% could give a good buffer for any emergencies or blips, plus providing a "war chest" while the thing sorts itself out. You could then drop the rate quite sharply over the next few years (and thus keeping you nice and popular with the voters).

Those are my off-the-cuff thoughts, bookdrunk; now why do I think that I should know who you are? Oh, yes:
which [DK] plans to introduce as soon as he is our benign dictator - and, trust me, only someone who has been drinking with him knows how worrying that prospect is.

Me, drink? Na...

*Bonus points for anyone who can tell me why 33% is, actually, an impractical percentage to use.

DK's Economic Prescription

UPDATE: in order to keep these series of essays together, I have shifted these first two up the index page.

Ladies and gentlemen, readers both faithful and faithless, the Fringe has ended (well, in any meaningful sense. I think that the Spiegeltent's open till 3 for the next week, but I simply cannot take out another mortgage in order to afford the beer. A kind barman did warn me, a couple of weeks ago, that "Leffe's £4.30, mate; is that OK?" "No, it's not OK," I replied. "That's a fucking ludicrous price for a pint. I'm going to pay it anyway, though..." Still, fucking £4.30? Anyway, I digress.), and that means, dear reader(s) that I am back to blogging a bit more seriously.

It is amazing how the count of daily hits has dropped whilst I've been... erm... taking in the spirit of the Fringe; however, I promise that I'm back for another round of exciting, insightful critique; so, inspired by Chris and Tim, let's start with taxation!

It all kicked off with this report (warning: massive PDF) from the Department of Work & Pensions (will they turn it into an audiobook so that the Secretary of State can understand what they've found? It could be read by Stephen Fry. Oh, and if you visit that link, who took that picture? Whoever it was must be blind as an adulterer. Oh, whoops!). Anyway, this from Chris:
Take a married couple with two children under 11 and pre-tax earnings of £200 a week. If they get a better job, raising their earnings to £300 a week, by how much does their net income rise? £60? £50? £40? Nope. £8.52. Yes. £8.52. That’s a marginal deduction rate of 91.5 per cent. The extra £100 this couple earns before taxes are swallowed up by higher income tax and National Insurance Contributions (£33); lower Working Tax Credits (£37) and less Housing Benefit (£19.50).

Now, this situation is ludicrous; Tim sums it up rather neatly:
One of the two things you need to know about economics is that incentives matter (the other being that admonition about free lunches), it generally being assumed that it is marginal tax rates that influence people's working habits. For someone facing 91.5% such marginal rates why work the extra hours? Why invest in education or training? Why, in fact, do anything at all to try and better one's economic situation? It doesn’t appear rational to make the extra effort.

Well, quite: the whole situation is completely insane and only a one-eyed, Scottish half-wit with shit for brains could have possibly kept extending this system. I mean, what kind of fucking monkey could possibly keep taking us further and further down this line: it's just not prudent. So, what to do?

First off, let's put in a flat rate tax system. The Adam Smith Institute has, I believe, already put forward a proposal for a Flat Rate Tax system, which is here: however, it is a proposal that just doesn't go far enough. Why on earth keep NI contributions, which are—in essence—just another income tax? In fact, the people who could most afford to pay (those earning over the £32,500 threshold), don't. But the whole point of a flat rate system, surely, is to simplify the whole taxation system, and thus be able to shed vast numbers of tax consuming bureaucrats. So, let's go the whole hog here, let's scrap everything, keeping only VAT and our Flat Rate Tax.

Now, I'm not an economist, so I'm going to pluck some figures out of the air, and run a short schedule. The majority of people in this country pay about 24% income tax, and another 11% income t... sorry, NI contribution. So, less your personal allowance of roughly £4,800, let's say that you pay 33% of what you earn to the government. So, let's imagine that we are a political party committed to this line and we introduce the following measures:
  • Introduce a Personal Allowance of £12,000 (lots and lots of votes there as you will immediately be making vast swathes of the low paid considerably better off. They may even lay aside the apathy long enough to vote for us),

  • After that, everyone pays 33% (representing a drop in higher rate tax, thus encouraging those rich party donors),

  • In our manifesto, we commit to dropping that tax as soon as affordable. Over the next few years, we start to make redundant the vast hordes of civil servants administering our taxation system, making several thousand redundant every year. Hopefully, the ones who are sacked will then go and get a job (becoming, in the process, tax contributors rather than tax consumers) in our new, less-burdensome and thus burgeoning economy.

But what to do about tax credits? Scrap 'em. All existing credits are removed. Immediately. No more means-tested credits (although there is a case for keeping some kind of disability benefit). What! But every one needs a safety net, surely? Yes, they do. Plus, of course, part of the problem with the free market is that, although the balance of power between employer and employee should be fairly equal, it's not. Someone may well be in a shitty job, and can in theory quit: however, (almost) everyone has to pay the rent at the end of the month. So what to do?

I think that it was at Chicken Yoghurt that I first read about the idea of the Citizen's Allowance (or whatever you want to call it: it should be the Subject's Allowance really, but that's a debate for another day). It's a really simple idea. Every single person of working age (presumably 16+) is paid a fixed allowance: this fixed allowance is enough to survive on, but not enough to confer a lack of incentive to get a job (the sum of £100 a week has been bandied about, and seems reasonable). The big thing is that people are paid this allowance whether they are working or not. This means that there is no government clawback as illustrated by Chris's example above: you work harder, you earn more and you see all of that money (less our 33%, if applicable). This also means that everyone has a safety net (helping, amongst other things, to equalise the balance between employer and employee) and because they do not lose the credit whilst in work, it also gives people an incentive to get into work. So this is what we do:
  • Scrap all benefits,

  • Introduce our Citizen's Allowance at, let's say, £100 a week (or rough equivalent),

  • Start gradually making the civil servants who administer benefits redundant, as above (but at a greater rate).

Suddenly, everyone's life becomes a little... sorry, a lot simpler. Civil servants have less paper to push around, so you don't need so many of them. The tax and administrative burdens on both individuals and businesses are substantially decreased. The poorest people in society become far better off, thus enabling them to spend more. This means more money flowing freely around our economy as people's buying power increases, and thus more money for businesses to grow and employ more people, etc. etc. Utopia can only be a decade away, surely?

Yes, there may be a few glitches, but these can be much more easily ironed out; the system, being so much simpler, is much easier to analyse for solutions. MPs should actively canvas their constituents after the system has been introduced (rather than just when looking for their vote), in order to gauge general reaction and gain feedback. Any major problems are acted on quickly, but always within the framework of flat rates and the maintenance of simplicity.

It is a bold idea, and will be implemented when I'm benign dictator of this country! But seriously, it would make our party immensely electable (there are countless thousands, if not millions, earning below £12,000 to whom we are offering a massive incentive). Furthermore, there is the possibility of progression: as we sack more jobsworths, the more money we save and thus the futher we can reduce your Flat Rate Tax. This in turn encourages business, which means more tax take (and with such a simple system, the loopholes will be minimal) and a further reduction in tax. We please the Left, because we are helping people out of poverty. We please the Right, because we are encouraging business (and smaller government). We also piss the hell out of the French, the further stagnation of whose economy we watch and enjoy, which has to be an added bonus.

Oh, yeah; before all this happens, we can—and probably will have to—tell the EU where, exactly (possibly using coordinates from their useless satellite) they can stuff their Union. And then it's off to trade with Africa (I shall post about my plans for that continent later)...

A good Harding fisking...

Following on from the abortion debate at The Sharpener in which, whilst I agreed with some of what he had to say in general but particularly hated the way in which he said it, I had a look at Neil Harding's blog and thought I peruse a few of his posts: this one caught my eye particularly.

The first point is easily dealt with. To be proud of something, don't you need some personal achievement? How can the accident of birth be an achievement?

No, you don't need personal achievement. I am proud of my father, and his achievements are not mine. Perhaps we assume that Neil despises his parents? I am proud of some of my friends' achievements and—although it is closer to home as I have advised some of them—they are not my achievements.

Deep down we all know that nationalism is illogical.

I think that "deep down" is where our emotions generally lie, and I think that many people are nationalist: it is on the surface that they reason that they are not. However, nationalism is not necessarily a geographical, it is cultural. If there is no cultural difference between countries, then why are we being urged to adopt a more "Continental" way of drinking? If there is no difference, then how can we change our habits to... Look, you get the idea. To deny cultural differences between countries is idiotic; there are cultural differences, full stop. Cultural differences and therefore nationalism.

The crimes or achievements of the past residents of the UK hold no more responsibility or source of pride for me personally than anything else humanity has done. For instance the Nazi atrocities are a warning to us all, not just the German people. Also go back a few generations of your family tree and most will find foreign ancestors. The year 1066 is only 40 generations back for instance!

Yes, and your point is? OK, as it happens, my ancestors were Norman, and they came over here with The Conqueror in 1066. That may be "only 40 generations", but a lot has happened in this country in the 939 years since the Norman Conquest. Amongst other things, the whole character of the nation has changed and evolved in a number of distinct phases. Do I feel guilt? Not really. Do I feel pride? Yes.

This may be illogical, but I think that guilt is a far more personal emotion than pride. Besides, we humans have a tendency to look on the bright side of things, and therefore to suppress bad emotions. Apart from anything else, I think that—certainly as applies to Britain—on balance, the good things that we have brought to other people rather outweigh the bad things that we have done. But that, of course, is merely what I think.

The second point, I want to start with one sentence.

"People born abroad are not inferior to people born in Britain."

I'll repeat that!

"People born abroad are not inferior to people born in Britain."

On the face of it, it seems an obvious and ridiculous thing to have to say, but the crux of those arguing against immigration rests on implying that people born abroad are inferior.

No, it does not. I do not think that foreigners are inferior, and yet I am against unfettered immigration. Why? Well, because they are culturally different; not inferior, different. How blind would you have to be to see why that is a problem? Shall we ignore the riots in Burnley? The ghettos in London, Manchester, Leeds? The admission by the head of the Commission for Racial Equality that "multiculturism" has failed? And, of course, the 7/7 bombings?

It is not something you will ever hear them say directly but my god, they leave you with no doubt that this is what they mean. Of course, quite a lot more than this can usually be read into what they say because for immigrants read black or brown skin, which is the real cause of their distress.

I think that you've missed out "yellow" there, son. Ah, yes; here we go. People who oppose high immigration are reactionary, racist, bigoted Tories; not in the least like those nice, cuddly Socialists, eh? Still, having found Neil particular brand of bigotry, let's move on...

The next argument against immigration is 'britain is too crowded'. Which might be the case, but when the same people are calling for a rise in the birth rate it gives the game away what their true motives are!

Sorry, Neil? What are their true motives? Oh, fuck me rigid; is it racism again?

For Britain to have a steady population we need a birth rate of 2.1 births per female. We currently have 1.7, thats 716,000 births per annum. The official net immigration is 151,000 which takes the replacement rate to 2.0, which still means a declining population and all the associated demographic problems. Why are these people not concerned about reducing the birth rate if they want to reduce the population? Indeed a lot of them argue for the birth rate to increase!

Well, fair enough. Mind you, I wonder what economic problems a declining population might cause that Gordon Brown hasn't already prepared for us. Given that most people quote pensions as being the problem, and Mr Prudence has already right royally screwed them up already, how could it get any worse? Still, since I am having to rely on Neil's anecdotal evidence that "a lot of them" argue for higher birthrates, we'll just have to leave this point for now.

Then there is their economic argument, which makes no sense at all because most immigrants are of working age and go straight into the job market. Unlike the 716,000 births, they are not going to be a drain on our taxes! For at least 16 years and probably longer, these births will cost money.

Hang on! I thought that you'd just made the economic argument? Yes, no, whatever. The trouble is not so much those who are given permits to work (many of whom are actually travelling here to take up a job anyway), it is on asylum seekers who are disbarred from working for a considerable amount of time. This is not, of course, their fault, it's the fault of the government.

All the data suggests those countries with the highest immigration also have the highest economic growth.

Really, Neil? Where are these figures? I mean, France has got a hell of a lot of immigrants, mainly from places like Algeria (or at least, they would do if they didn't keep burning them) and yet its growth rate is pretty appalling. Likewise, Germany has got a lot of Turkish immigrants, and yet it ain't exactly booming either. Good policy helps to ensure economic growth, immigration or no immigration.

For me this furore over immigration and the deliberate blurring of the boundaries with asylum is racism, pure and simple.

Oh Neil, Neil; nothing in this world is "pure and simple", and people's reactions least of all. However, let me try to sum up for you, without being racist, why you are wrong.

Humans are naturally, no matter how enlightened you may think that we are, tribal animals. Anything different or strange is viewed with suspicion; on a really basic level, just look at reaction of many Scots or Northerners to an RP accent like mine. But it goes further than that; many people assume a different culture. I am very middle-class, so working-class people tend to view me with suspicion, because they suspect that I have a culture dissimilar to theirs. Think how much that would be emphasised were I to speak in a completely different language.

Now, you could argue that being suspicious of other cultures is racism; fair enough. However, most of us are actually fairly tolerant of individuals with different ideas and lifestyles. What people are afraid of is when these individuals are assembled into large groups. And this works all ways. Why do Asians tend to ghettoise themselves, to live in large communities? Because they feel that it gives them protection against the native British community, whose ways are different to theirs. This, in turn, creates suspicion in the native communities as they become threatened by a community whose ways are not theirs. Now all of this could be ascribed to racism, but it has nothing, intrinsically, to do with the colour of someone's skin; colour is simply a convenient marker.

You know what I'm going to say here, and it does involve the words "when", "in" and "Rome". It is all about integration. It is not about skin colour, it is about culture. These are very different things. What Burnley has shown us is what happens when integration does not happen; in that town, there are places where white people do not go, and places where Asians do not go. The white people feel a—naturally enough—resentment that there is somewhere in their native land that they cannot go. Why? Becuas it is theirs: because nationalism does exist. It's the old "we were here first" line.

The reason that large scale immigration is not desirable is because it causes confrontation. It actually doesn't matter whether you thinkt that it should or not: the fact is that it does. Unfortunately, we are seeing the results of this culture clash in, amongst other things, the Tube bombings. In Britain, we have a culture of not blowing ourselves up on crowded trains just because we don't like the government's policies. We have, for a few hundred years, had a divorced legal and religious framework (I know it's only a few generations, but—damn!—a lot has happened). The culture clash becomes greater the more equal the size of the opposing cultures. In the end, there is no point in saying that in an enlightened world it shouldn't happen because, when you get down to brass tacks, it does. And it doesn't just happen in Britain.

The economic argument is utterly invalid: as I said before, good policies encourage economic growth. Or are you, Neil, saying that "brown people" are essentially better at business than whites? Isn't that racism? But, as I said before, it's of no consequence anyway, because it's not intrinsically true. It may happen because immigrants are prepared to work for less; yes, that might create a small economic boost. But then, if you have something like the minimum wage, it tends to iron out those benefits to a great extent.

Essentially, you are accusing anyone who disagrees with major immigration of being a racist. That is as closed and bigoted a view as those you criticise. Furthermore, it simply is not a realistic position.

Bit windy, eh?

Uh, no, sorry; it's Katrina, of the hurricane variety. I was just perusing the post at Arthur's Seat and was wondering (perhaps uncharitably): will we be seeing places like, oh, I don't know, India, Mozambique, any other African or Southern Asian country you could mention, opening their wallets and donating to a US Hurricane disaster aid fund?

Or do they already...?

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Fringe was a laff...

The Scotsman has published it's list of the 50 Funniest lines at this year's Fringe. My favourites, i.e. most of the cruel ones, are posted below...

There were some fat kids at my school. One girl had to get cut out of a hula hoop.
Alan Carr

Growing up it was difficult for me to chat up teenage girls. Now I'm 35, it's a little uncomfortable.
Will Smith

They say the Meek shall inherit the Earth but don't worry, we'll just beat the hell out of them and get it back again.
Howard Read

If a child dies every time Bono clicks his fingers then maybe he should stop clicking.
Colin & Fergus

All of the call centres in Scotland are being outsourced to India. Bloody foreigners - staying over there, taking our jobs...
Bruce Morton

I saw this bloke chatting up a cheetah, I thought "he's trying to pull a fast one".
Tim Vine

Please tell me if these jokes don't work. I don't want to die up here. I'm not that kind of Muslim.
Omar Marzouk, Pleasance Dome

We Irish love Muslims. They've taken a lot of heat off us. Now we're just the Riverdance people.
Andrew Maxwell

The Lord is my shepherd - which I think speaks volumes for the quality of staff we have here on the estate.
Miles Jupp

Exit signs - they're on the way out aren't they?
Tim Vine

Why did my Grandfather cross the road? To occupy France.
Hennig Wehn

My dad's dying wish was to have his family around him, I can't help thinking he'd have been better off with oxygen.
Jimmy Carr, EICC

Growing up in Wales ... one night I dreamt it stopped raining ... you never forget that first dry dream.
Rhod Gilbert

I used to be unable to get a seat on the train, but now I can get the whole carriage.
Paul Chowdhry

There once was a woman who lived in a shoe, until the Daily Mail launched a hate campaign and inspired a mob from Kent to drive her out of town.
Robin Ince, Pleasance Courtyard

Women say the worst thing about a man cheating on them is "all the lies". Personally, I quite like the lies - they're the only thing that's hiding the truth.
Brendan Burns

Apparently Jacko may have to sell his ranch. I feel sorry for the estate agent: "I'll just put some coffee on to mask the smell of fear".
Lucy Porter

So Sting said: "If you don't leave I'll be forced to call the police". And I said: "I thought you guys weren't talking anymore."
The Dutch Elm Conservatoire

I don't like comedians who think they're "dangerous" and "edgy". Now I'm quite a rebellious person, but I'm more clumsy than edgy. If I've smashed a system it's because I've knocked it off a shelf.
Daniel Kitson

Singing along to All along the Watchtower: "There must be some kind of way out of here"... Well yes there is, if you go down the hallway and take the second right you'll find the exit sign.
Rob Deering

I'm from Leeds. If you ever take a trip there, take your camera because there are loads of things you'll never see again. Like your camera.
Ray Peacock

My dad is Irish, my mum's Iranian so we spent most of our family holidays in Customs.
Patrick Monahan

My girlfriend was in tears the other day. "I can't believe you're always making fun of my weight," she said. "I think you're fatist." I said no "I think you'll find you're the fattest."
Jimmy Carr

How many members of U2 does it take to change a lightbulb? Just Bono, he holds it up and the world revolves around him.
Al Pitcher

This is probably my last Fringe post. I wouldn't, however, bank on that...

Friday, August 26, 2005

All Aboard!

Did any of you have a record, as a child, called All Aboard? It featured such classics as Ernie, the Fastest Milkman in the West, Alright Said Fred, The Laughing Policeman, The Runaway Train, The Gnu Song and, of course, Rolf's classic Two Little Boys.

Anyway, in the Library Bar last night, Caro, Macca and I sang the lot. Then we remembered that All Aboard didn't have Puff The Magic Dragon on it.

So we sang that too...

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Things I love...

... about the Edfest Fringe #1

The fact that I can finish my work at the back of 1 in the morning and still go and get a drink! Hooray!

Seriously, if you are as dedicated to your alcohol intake as I am, you really should be in Edinburgh right now. The whole place goes a bit insane; however, one the best bits is finding out which bars are hip and cool this year. My nomination is the GB Library Bar, but you may have gathered that already! Right, that's where I'm off to to get a swift pint: however, not too late tonight as I have a meeting with a new client at 10 tomorrow...

Monday, August 22, 2005

Fringe Benefits

My booze and drug consumption continues at a ludicrously frenzied pace; I've been out till 5am every day, bar one (till 3am) and so blogging is still quite light I'm afraid. Still, here's the Britblog Roundup to keep you occupied.

I'm going to have another beer and then wander up town, I think. I'm hoping that the GB Library Bar won't have another fire alarm at 4 in the morning, as it did last night. I had to repair to C Venues and it was absolutely awful; especially as I was with Macca (Keith from The Office) and people kept wanting to take photos of themselves with him. It was irritating enough for me; how he puts up with it, I don't know...

Two mores parties at DK's place...

Robin Cook is dead. I was going to write what I thought about him [UPDATE: actually, I already had, briefly; I'd just forgotten that fact—DK], but I'll shove you over to this post at Right For Scotland. Although he fails to point out that, whilst Cook was happy to resign his position over the illegal war in Iraq, he didn't see fit to do so over the illegal war in the Balkans. In summary: he was a faithless hypocrite.

RFS also does a good job on Saint Mo. Couldn't stand her either. These two and Heath in the space of a month. It's party-time in the Devil's Kitchen! Now, come on, don't hog the Cava...

Friday, August 19, 2005

Nightmare Ticket

The Beeb are describing a pairing of David Cameron and Ken Clarke as a "dream ticket". They must be insane.

No one in their right mind is going to vote for a Tory party headed by Ken Clarke. Why? Essentially, because he is insane, and here's my reasoning:

  • Ken Clarke believes in the EU, and believes that Britain should be in it.

  • No one in their right mind believes the EU is a good thing.

  • Therefore, Ken Clarke is mad. QED.

One could take it further, and say that he is not, in fact, a conservative. My reasons?

  • Ken Clarke believes in the EU.

  • The EU's philosophy is that of micromanagement of the population by the state.

  • A conservative believes in personal liberty, business as the engine of wealth, light regulation, and in small government—the agents of which are servants of those who elect them—which is always able to act in the best interests of the people who elect them (i.e. not being tied by diktats from Brussels).

  • Therefore, Ken Clarke is not a conservative. QED. He is, however, mad.

That all seems pretty simple,eh?
Mr Clarke, 65, who Mr Cameron said was a "huge figure" in Tory politics, says he will run if he thinks he can win.

Mr Clarke is a huge figure in Tory politics. About 20 stone huge, I'd say. And since Mr Clarke has absolutely failed to win the leadership twice so far, what makes him think that he can win this time?
The rules will not be finalised for the leadership contest until late next month, although Conservative MPs have already voted for a system where they, rather than party members, get to choose the leader.

Oh, yes. Election rigging. I wonder if he has Dame Shirley Porter's 'phone number...

As for Cameron:
Mr Cameron told Today: "I am putting forward my ideas and my approach talking about a modern, compassionate conservatism. And if people like my ideas then I should put my name forward.

I already hate your ideas, Mr Cameron. If anyone ever says the phrase "modern, compassionate conservatism" anywhere near me, I'll have them locked up.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

DK's schooldays...

I meant to write a post about private schools when I saw this post by Tim but, as usual, never quite got around to it. Tim was commenting on this article by the fat, unpleasant Roy Hattersley.
Christopher Price - ex-MP, sometime vice-chancellor and perpetual educationist - is leading a one-man campaign to improve the charities bill. His anxieties, naturally enough, concern its application to "independent schools", for which "charitable status" provides a tax exemption that amounts to a government subsidy.

Of course, one immediately has to question the word "improve" as used in this case; one suspects that the improvement will be a matter of perspective; sure enough:
Price's proposals do not seek to end the scandal of low-income families contributing towards the cost of sending young gentlemen to Eton or Harrow. His plan simply attempts to ensure that those institutions give something to the community in return for the benefits they receive.

Now, is Roy really saying that the tax bills of "low-income families" would be reduced if the charitable status—and, thus, the tax breaks that go with that—of private schools were revoked? If he was that worried about them, I think that he might find that, for instance, reducing the pensions of 600-odd MPs by a few thousand might reduce the tax bill considerably. Anyway, it appears that Roy is indeed saying that.

There is also this strange idea that private schools give nothing to the community (by "strange idea", I mean "bollocks"). Your humble DK went to a well-known private school—mentioned above, actually—which we called Slough Grammar (though I prefer "The Old Coll." myself) and the school invested millions of pounds in facilities, such as the sports track, new swimming pool, etc., which the local government schools were allowed to use at either no, or almost no, cost. Why do these schools need to use these facilities, to accept the charity of others? Why, Master, 'tis because the government has, in a great many cases, sold off the schools' land and facilities for development and suchlike.
But there is no reason in law or logic why fee-paying education cannot be reduced - with the removal of charity status as a first step - to a level at which its products are no longer influential in society.

What the hell does this mean? What are these "products" that should no longer be "influential in society"? Is he perhaps talking about the beneficiaries of the private school education? If so, why should they no longer be influential?
On the other hand, the Price proposals will help to legitimise the independent sector by ensuring that it makes a real contribution to the education of the whole community.

They do this anyway. Primarily by turning out people who can read, write and add up. Sometimes, we products can even multiply numbers together in our heads and without the use of a calculator! Many private schools, as I have said, already provide facilities, educational and otherwise, to those whom the state has already failed.
Charity law defines all non-profit-making schools as charities. That was fine when they were run, as was their original intention, for the education of the poor. Now they are the preserve of parents who can afford their fees - averaging, for boarders, more than £20,000 a year - so the idea of a Treasury handout is absurd. Public schools, almost everyone agrees, must provide a "public benefit" in return for their public emoluments.

Yes, Roy, that's right; and for many parents, including mine, those very high fees mean that they must make considerable personal sacrifices in order to afford them. Mind you, if my parents had had Roy's salary (and massive perks) then an extra few grand on top would, I am sure, have made little difference to their ability to pay. After all, that is what is being proposed here: an end to tax breaks (despite the fact that most would still qualify as non-profit making companies and would thus be allowed some fairly hefty tax-breaks anyway) will, naturally, mean higher fees. And I think that I've already covered the "public benefit" argument. But terrier Hattersley will not be put off by the fatuity of his own arguments.
Thirty years ago, a select committee of the Commons recommended that charitable status be restricted to schools that "manifestly devote the education they provide towards meeting a range of clear educational needs throughout the community". Similar sentiments appeared in the long title of the bill that was "lost" when parliament was dissolved for the general election. However, the government refuses to define in law what public benefit means.

Yeah, Roy, that's because it's pretty damn difficult to define. Am I a member of the public? Yes. Did my private school education benefit me? Unquestionably (after all, how many people from a comprehensive to use the word "fatuity" in such a fluent manner?). Quod erat demonstrandum, methinks. That, naturally, is not the kind of public benefit that Roy means. No doubt he is going to enlighten us meagre mortals as to what, exactly, he does mean.
According to one independent headmaster - who resents his more famous counterparts' determination to remain aloof from the real world - the unit has suggested that "lending out a playing field for a few days a year" should be enough to make a school qualify as a charity.

The public benefit must be "significant" and "continual", provided after consultation with local interests and regularly reviewed.

Ah, now I see.
So the hope of equity lies with elected MPs. They have to decide whether or not they want their constituents to subsidise public schools - with the schools doing nothing in return. They should not find it difficult to make up their minds.

Now, given that every tax paying person in this country subsidises every single MP, effectively making each one of those 600 or so people (plus, of course, MSPs and MEPs) a charity, will they have to prove that they are providing a benefit to the community? Of course, Roy is now a Lord (how very egalitarian, Roy) and we are, presumably, subsidising him to write Op.Ed. pieces for The Grauniad. I wonder that Roy can take himself seriously. Actually, perhaps he doesn't and he's having some enormous joke at our expense. No, no, I think that it's just the usual socialist jealousy...

However, I shall let Tim make a point or two before I amplify my own mind:
I do worry a little about the equation of "tax break" with "subsidy". Not taking money from people is not quite the same thing as giving money to them.

How very true, and a point that Tim consistently makes. It is not the government's money, it is our money which we gift to the government that they may run services, like the police, that we ourselves cannot.
My own, slightly odd, I agree, argument for the existence of private schools is that they do serve a huge public purpose, provide quite massive benefits to society in general. The show us quite how crap the State system is. Current costs for private day schools are within spitting distance of the costs of State day schools. The results from the private sector are vastly better. The embarassment this engenders in those who have to defend the State system is worth, to me, every penny of whatever taxes the private schools are not paying.


There’s also the elephant in the room, the thing determinedly ignored. Those parents who send their children to private schools have already paid the tax to fund the State system. They also then pay extra to educate their children. Currently the budget for education and skills is around 30 billion a year. Some 10% are privately educated. So the State saves 3 billion odd a year by not educating those who are so privately.


Yes, sure, those numbers are very sketchy, but does anyone think that the "tax break" of charitable status is worth more than that? Even a significant fraction of that? The Government makes a huge profit out of the existence of private schools....and Roy ignores that, stating that they provide nothing to the wider society.

Indeed, one could argue that it is significantly more than that. In Edinburgh, for instance, nearly 45% of children are in private education. I think that, were you to force a significant amount of them into the city's publically-funded system, then you would have to built new and bigger schools, hire more teachers, etc. In fact, according to this critique by the Adam Smith Institute, the government should be paying parents to get more children into private education:
Next, choice would be opened up to all parents, who would get a voucher of £2500 if they decided to leave the state sector and go private. This, says Tooley, could save taxpayers £19m, since many people would choose the private-sector option and less public expenditure on state schools would be needed.

Parents choosing private education would get up to £500 off their school fees in the form of a tuition tax credit. Once again, this could save the Treasury £115, and it would help extend diversity, choice, and competition into education, breaking down an ineffective and expensive state monopoly that traps many families, particularly the most disadvantaged, in mediocre or failing schools..

You can find the Tooley Report, plus other publications relating to this subject, as downloadable PDFs here.

Furthermore, I bet that a far greater proportion of privately-educated people, compared to those in publically-funded schools, go on to high-paid jobs—and thus pay more tax—and far fewer, at any point in their lives, claim benefits.

Now, let me enlighten you as to the methods of The Old Coll. I was in a class of 24 or so until my first A-level year; that's not an awful lot lower than state schools. But, why was the Eton education so valuable (not for my A-level results which were, due to my extreme laziness and inability to grasp the more complex points of organic chemistry, not particularly good)? It was because whilst there I could do almost anything that I wanted in terms of... well... hobbies. I took part in theatre, both acting and producing; I am sitting in my flat, in Edinburgh, right now, surrounded by my metal sculptures (my primary passion at school); others played sport, or did fencing, or swam, or built working aeroplanes, or... Well, you get the idea.

The point is that schooling should not simply be about exam qualifications. It should be about finding out what you are good at, it should involve having the opportunity to try many different things. The vast majority of private schools are already helping state school children do just that, and they are doing it better than the government is. The private schools provide more than just financial benefit to the government; they provide, if you like, spiritual benefit to children who, through the disastrous policies of successive governments, both socialist and conservative (though mainly the former), have been denied this opportunity.

It is not the tiny amount of money that the charitable tax breaks are worth that has denied these children; it is the folly and jealousy of politicians. Mote and beam, Roy; mote and beam...

This may help...

... my plans for world domination!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Worst Person On The Fringe

First of all, can I ay that Dara'O'Brain is an absolute god, and immensely polite with it. When approached by a random punter, i.e. me, he was very tolerant and explained how his name should be pronounced. Good for him, we like him, he is a nice man (apparently very funny too).

So far, my nomination for the worst person on the Fringe is Alan Davies.

All you people out there, feel free to nominate others...

Monday, August 15, 2005

Happy Birthday to me...

Today I have reached the grand, old age of 28. Most people have expressed surprise... that I'm so young...!

Anyway, the continuing cycle of copious late-night drinking and hard drugs have ensured that I have seen no news, am only now catching up with my regular blogs, etc. etc. So, again I apologise; I think that you should think of me as being on holiday (from reality).

However, I would like to point you, via Pootergeek towards this very enjoyable Austen pastiche...

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Dear God...

It's the Fringe. I think that I may have gone slightly insane! I've been drinking in the Library Bar in the Teviot Gilded Balloon until 5 every morning, so am knackered. Only, today, I didn't; Jack and I have been drinking heavily.

Look, basically blogging's off until either I find something good to write about, or I sober up. Neither is looking likely the now...

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Hate to be right

I spotted this at Nosemonkey's place: to me, it seems that this post of mine—in which I outlined why we went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq, rather than Iran—is looking more and more accurate. Even, dare I say it, prophetic?

Some links that—even if tenuously—appear to back up my assertions.

  • Iran rejects EU nuclear offer

  • Russia asks Iran to halt activity

  • Iran urged to stop nuclear work

  • Iranian weapons found in Iraq
  • Won't someone think of the children?

    I can't help thinking, with all this talk of Britishness amidst the largely male blog community that I read, that we, in our respective moral relativity or blithe bellicosity, are both groups ignoring the plight of real people, as described by the excellent Theodore Dalrymple. Here's one delicious example:

    A young patient of mine tried to hang herself. She had had an arranged marriage, but on the wedding night her husband had come to the doubtless mistaken conclusion that she was not a virgin and had administered a severe beating, of which the rest of his family naturally approved. Thereafter he locked her up, beat her regularly, and burned her with a cigarette lighter. She managed to run away, though her husband had said in advance that if ever he caught her doing so, or after having done so, he would kill her, to pay her back for the loss of face she would have caused him in the community. She returned to her mother, who, horrified by her behavior, said she should return to her husband at once (even if he were going to kill her), in order to preserve the good name of the family. Her other daughters would be unmarriageable if it became known in the community that this was the kind of conduct to which the family was prone. If my patient did not return to her husband, she—her mother—would commit suicide. Torn between the threatened suicide of her mother and the prospect of murder by her husband, she took to the rope.

    Let us not forget that these people are not blowing themselves up in Tube trains, but they are ruining lives over a far longer period of time. And these people are not extremists, and could never be described as such.

    Perhaps the most alarming aspect of the story is that the three [Muslim] brothers were not regarded as delinquents by other members of their community [for having hacked at a Sikh boy, with whom their sister had fallen inlove, with machetes] but as having behaved in a thoroughly honorable and decent way. That they had broken the law in pursuing their vendetta, thus risking imprisonment, only added to their honor: they were spirited boys to be proud of.

    Christians and atheists do appalling things to their wives, families and random people they meet down the pub. The difference is that—in general—our culture despises and condemns them. The Muslim culture, this "religion of peace" does not. These people are brought up in a deeply, deeply unpleasant culture, in which women—and especially young, desirable girls—are pawns to be bartered with, to be beaten, to be possessed physically and mentally. All of this unspeakable evil is built into the culture in the name of honour. Well, I'll tell you this, and you may condemn me for it, but this is no honour that I would recognise. This is mediaeval brutishness and evil, and it is built into the very fabric of the society in which these people live; for this evil is called "honour" and the culture is Islam.

    In the parents' scale of values, the respect of the community comes higher than the individual happiness of their offspring and indeed is a precondition of it. The need for this respect does encourage a certain standard of conduct, but it depends upon the offspring carrying out without demur the obligations laid upon them by the parents. Thus, once a marriage has been arranged, it is indissoluble—at least by the woman. I have known many young women who have been mercilessly and brutally treated by their husbands, but whose own parents recommended that they put up with the ill-treatment rather than bring public shame upon the whole family by separating from him.

    There is no way in which this, or any of the other appalling acts detailed in the article, can be excused. If someone would like to start with a little moral relativism though, feel free to post in the comments. But I think that you would have a hard time defending this barbaric behaviour, so endemic in certain communities.

    The idea that it is possible to base a society on no cultural or philosophical presuppositions at all, or, alternatively, that all such presuppositions may be treated equally so that no choice has to be made between them, is absurd. Immigrants enrich—have enriched—our culture, but they do so by addition rather than by subtraction or division.

    Quite so. We are still building our tolerant culture; in many places it is still deficient and, of course, in many ways tolerance is, itself, bringing new problems with it. But these acts described above; they must not happen. We must not stand by and say, "Oh, it's just their custom; it's just as valid as ours", while the brother beats his sister half to death with a baseball bat. We cannot stand by whilst the father's stifle their children then deport them to a life of rape and servitude. These things make a mockery of our compassion, our society and our imagined decency.

    That is why multiculturalism stops at the borders. When someone enters this country, they agree to live by at least the bare minimum of our laws, to embrace humanity; it they cannot do this, they should be removed. Minus their daughters.

    P.S. In reply to Jamie's post (via NM:
    Blunkett also famously declared that Asian families should speak English at home in order to inculcate a sense of Britishness.

    As an Englishman, I’ll speak any language I damn well please in my own home. In fact, I’m going to start learning Urdu tomorrow. Stubbornness: how British.

    As an Auxiliary nurse, I had to take one of my paraplegic patients to his father's funeral. The family were Greek Cypriots. The mother had been living in England for over 30 years, and all she could say was, "Hello", "Please" and "Goodbye". Immigrants shouldn't speak English at home in order to inculcate a sense of Britishness; they should speak English at home so that they can do the shopping and live a life. We condemn the schools, and the government, for allowing children to leave unable to read or write English and yet we praise those who "stay true to their roots" and are similarly unable to live a life unsupported. Just chucking that into the pot, old chap. Me, I'm as English as scones, jam and clotted cream and I agree with you Jamie; but then I already speak the lingo rather better than most.

    All right, I've probably gone a bit manic on this post; I wouldn't say it was one of my most balanced. Seriously though, I just don't understand people sometimes...

    Tuesday, August 09, 2005

    Moral agency

    I love this post: it's so beautifully straightforward! I recommend that you read Professor Froward's Slough of Despond.

    It is axiomatic to the anti-war left that all of Osama bin Laden's demands on the West are reasonable, and that bin Laden can be trusted to honor any bargain we strike with him. I have personal doubts about the wisdom of any policy that relies on the infallible wisdom and sweet reasonableness of a religious fanatic who massacres civilians for a living, but maybe that's just me.

    (H/T Timmy, whilst I was sorting his damn Google ads...)

    So much hot air?

    OK, I've been getting into a debate over at Tim's place about this zinc/hydrogen power generation idea, and a lot of people seem to be confused about it. There are further explanations (with pretty diagrams) both here a PDF is here.

    I was going to blog an explanation, but then I checked around, and found this post from Engineer-Poet which provides the hard figures that I couldn't be bothered to source. Don't be put off by the technicality, it's relatively obvious really. Even if you are not chemistry literate, you'll get the gist. Having said that, if anyone would like me to blog a basic layman's translation, just ask in the comments and I'll get around to doing it as soon as humanly possible.

    Do read it; it considers a number of options, and provides some further reading as well.

    Scotch mist

    Come on, all you Scottish bloggers! We are obviously not blogging well enough. How else to explain the rather swift (seeming) demise of Scottish Political Blogs Review? I think that we are about two weeks behind now, and it seems that the ambition to bring Scottish blogging to the world has disappeared into thin air like Scotch mist.

    Luckily, young Timmy seems to be going from strength to strength...

    The time is propitious

    I thought that this moment was definitely worth capturing for posterity...

    Monday, August 08, 2005

    Ginger Fringe

    I was going to write about Robin Cook dying (clue to intentions: he's no loss to the world, frankly), but I think that Harry Hutton and Mr Free Market have just about covered it. Just one point: if he was so damn honourable for resigning because of the illegality of the Iraq War, why didn't he resign as Foreign Secretary during the equally illegal Serbian war? Hmm? Suffice to say, I believe that Mr Robin "Whoops! Is that your secretary under the table or are you just pleased to see me, dear?" Cook was a total waste of space and matter.

    So, to allay this bitterness, which becomes me not, I shall tell you about my weekend. It's easily summarised really.

    Drinking. A lot. Over a very long period of time.

    On Saturday, I met a couple of friends of mine at the Farmer's Market, and then we drank—first in Cloisters and then the Spiegeltent—from about half noon. I eventually stopped and retired to bed at about 6 in the morning.

    So, yesterday, I decided that I'd have a quiet one. A couple of pints in the afternoon, and then early to bed. Oh, wait! I had to meet up with the Three Weeks crowd; this I duly did, meeting them in the Brookes Bar of the Pleasance at about half one at night. Then a couple of us just weren't tired. After a couple of games of pool, and meeting a very drunk man and his pleasant friend, we repaired to the Library Bar of the Gilded Balloon (which you can only get into if you have a pass). Since this bar closed at 5, I found myself—once more—letting myself into the flat at about 6 in the morning.

    Today, I'm absolutely exhausted. Therein lies my reason for not blogging anything interesting today...

    Hello Halo

    In accordance with the instructions of the Mighty Mr Worstall, I have installed Haloscan to deal with Trackbacks. However, this means that all comments on this site have now disappeared.

    Just wanted you people to know that it wasn't me being malicious; I had no idea that that was going to happen. Although, if I'd taken the time to think about it, I should have guessed really. Still, let's see if this trackback thing works, and whether it has any unpleasant side effects (one comment has indicated large amounts of spam coming through the trackback system).

    Sunday, August 07, 2005

    Saturday, August 06, 2005

    Hiroshima Day

    ENOLA gets 5 stars from Three Weeks.

    Why write 120 words on Enola, when I could easily type just three? This is unmissable.
    The cast speak of doom without consideration or emotion in a manner that is unsettling yet wildly captivating...


    There is a nice long article on ENOLA, one of the shows I'm involved in this Fringe, on the Beeb site.

    On August 6 1945, the B-29 Superfortress plane Enola Gay dropped 'Little Boy' - the world's first atomic bomb - on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

    The second atomic weapon - 'Fat Man' - was delivered over Nagasaki three days later.

    Sixty years on these world-changing events are remembered in Enola, one of several shows on the Edinburgh Fringe to draw inspiration from the events of World War II.

    From the ENOLA site:

    At 08.16 on the 6th August, 1945, the Enola Gay, cruising at 26,000 feet, dropped "Little Boy" on the waking population of Hiroshima. As dawn rose over Japan, 70,000 people were vaporised under the force of a thousand suns.

    Exactly sixty years on. Enola Gay shares her name with the plane which dropped the bomb. This powerful production explores the relationship between nuclear suburbia, geometry, and the distance we perceive ourselves from Hiroshima. Al Smith's new play shows us that each one of us has a finger on the button.

    It's seriously good; if you're around in the Festival, go and see it. You can also read the ENOLA blog.

    Friday, August 05, 2005

    Dalrymple for President!

    Theodore Dalrymple posts a typically erudite critique of the concept of "equality of opportunity".

    Leaving aside genetic differences, which must persist until all hereditary endowments can be made precisely the same, and which for the time being must be accepted even though they are unfair (not unjust, although most people nowadays seem to have difficulty distinguishing between the two), the only way environmental factors affecting opportunities can be made equal is by social engineering on a scale that would make North Korea look like a paradise of laissez-faire.

    Quite so.

    (H/T—The Joy of Curmudgeonry.)

    It seems...

    ... that the spat that The P-G and I have been having with Nosemonkey has been spotted.

    A spark of hope?

    It's not all doom and gloom.


    Oh, no, maybe it is.

    (H/T—Pootergeek (who also picks the post below for praise).)

    The rhetoric of the Left Stupid

    Ok, here is an article in the Guardian which kind of sums up the problem with these people. Generally speaking, I don't disagree too violently with its conclusions; however, I thought that it might be interesting to view some of the phraseology.

    Shortly after September 11 2001, I was widely denounced for implying, in a New Statesman editorial, that by electing George Bush - who was known to be indifferent to anything but the interests of US capital - Americans had helped to bring the New York and Washington attacks on themselves.

    Bush's responsibility is to the US people, and thus the economy. I've never met the man personally, but I reckon he's probably less than indifferent to a number of things. His children, for instance. Or God.

    Let me first explain what I was trying to say (perhaps clumsily) four years ago.

    Ah, yes, the get-out clause.

    The large majority of Americans (including migrants) have bought into this project and benefit from it - through cheap oil, for example, or through profits of US-based multinationals, which are often derived from expropriation of other countries' resources.

    Expropriation? Several definitions here, but the one for economics says

    The taking over of private property by a government, often without fair compensation but usually with a legal assertion that the government has a right to do so.

    Um, well, I think that you may have a few problems justifying that word, old son. You may feel that US businesses try to pay as little for the goods it buys, but that's just business. And the US buys its oil (to which I believe Mr Wilby is principly referring) from a price-fixing cartel; this is why oil prices affect the world economy. If the US government just pinched the oil, prices wouldn't be a problem now, would it? I think that you'd even have a hard time proving expropriation in Iraq, really.

    Any president who fails to protect these benefits risks himself or his party losing office. So if they are serious about democracy, Americans should accept a share of responsibility for what is done in their name. And so should we, whose country is America's closest ally and accomplice.

    That's fair enough, although to pretend that presidents or prime ministers are elected on a single issue is a bit disingenuous. I mean, I have no fucking idea how Labour got back into power here, but I think that it's because most people don't realise how badly they're fucking up the economy.

    There is another point too. Even those I know who were against going into Iraq in the first place, generally agree that it would be better for the Iraqis if we remained there for the moment. This is also the opinion of most ordinary Iraqis in polls, the ajority of whom say that their lives are now better. In the US, Kerry promised to pull the troops out of Iraq; most people think that that is, in terms of what is best for the Iraqis, a morally repugnant idea. Thus, they elected Bush, who is also—as far as the majority are concerned—also doing a reasonable job on the economy.

    None of this is to deny that indiscriminate murder is wrong or to support either the gang that attacked America in 2001 or the ones that attacked London last month. It is merely to observe that we should all take responsibility for our actions or inactions. This is what we now demand of Muslims.

    OK, fair enough. But, as I said, electing our leaders is not a single issue problem. If Mr Wilby does disgree so violently with the war, why did he himself vote for Blair ("Do I, as one who voted for Blair and travel regularly on the tube, agree with them?")?

    Is there something wrong with their religion?

    Bluntly, yes, if you practise that religion as rigidly as Osama bin Laden, the Taliban or the Iranian regime. There are other issues, like the general war-like tone of the Koran, its immutability and the inability to separate Faith and state. However, the majority of Muslims in the west are—to quote Nosemonkey (just because I like the turn of phrase)—"the majority of true Muslims are no more nutty than anyone else who believes in an all-powerful, omnipotent, omnipresent deity."

    Have they given their young people the right values? Many Muslims are asking exactly these questions. For example, Bushra Nasir, head of a comprehensive and one of the Muslim delegation that met Tony Blair after the bombings, says that "now is the time for us Muslims to put our house in order" and "to look at what is going wrong with Muslim families and education".

    Good for them. We'll see whether anything actually happens.

    To many of us, the attacks seem especially evil. No warnings are given. The bombs are deliberately targeted at large numbers of civilians. They kill young and old, Muslims and non-Muslims, Blair voters and Blair opponents. (Not that bombing Dresden, Hiroshima, Hanoi or Baghdad was all that discriminating either).

    Ah, yes; see the Westerners evil past? We brought it on ourselves, guv. There are a few points to make here though.

    • Dresden—we were legally at war. And, of course, since Dresden had a number of armaments factories it was a legitimate tactical target. I won't bother pointing out who started the principle of bombings cities of production in WWII.

    • Hiroshima—we were legally at war. Again, these were conceivably military targets and the Japanese were warned about the impending bombing. The Japanese government had ordered a partial evacuation of Hiroshima.

    • Hanoi—I'm afraid that I know very little about the specifics of the Vietnam War but Hanoi does not seem to be on a par with the first two."During the Vietnam War Hanoi's transportation facilities were not disrupted by the bombing of bridges and railways, which were, however, immediately repaired."

    • Baghdad—we used targeted bombs. That's about the best that one can do, really. But then, as Mr Wilby says, ordinary Iraqis have to take responsibility for their leader's aggressive actions in Kuwait. After all, Saddam had elections, didn't he? Erm...

    The point is that AQ deliberately target civilians. In all of the cases above, the primary point of the bombings was to destroy or disrupt the military capability of the countries which we were at war with. We must accept that there are civilian deaths in every war, but the point is that we do not deliberately target non-combatants. These terrorists do.

    And a home-grown suicide bomber, dreaming of 72 virgins for himself and "a painful doom" (in the Qur'an's words) for his victims, seems an unpleasantly self-absorbed figure. What does he hope to achieve? He issues no statement, no programme, no final words to secure his place in the history books. It seems to be pure nihilism.

    Well, yes, that's the point; the point is to kill civilians. What AQ want is the return of the Caliphate, which is not ours to give.

    A section of the Islamic world believes the west is waging war on it, that this war has intensified with the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, and that it could intensify further with an invasion of Iran. It's no use saying the 2001 attack preceded those invasions. As far as many Muslims are concerned, it went on for most of the 20th century. Arabs were expelled from Israel in the 1940s; Israel occupied the West Bank from 1967; the first Gulf war took place in 1991 and, to Bin Laden's rage, led to US troops polluting sacred Saudi soil. The US has propped up corrupt, secular, pro-western tyrannies throughout the Islamic world - and then blamed and even bombed Muslims for their failure to embrace democracy.

    The Arabs were not exactly expelled in the 1940s Wikipedia again):

    Following World War II, the British announced their intention to withdraw from the mandate of Palestine. The United Nations General Assembly (GA Resolution 181, November 29, 1947) proposed the partition of Palestine into two states, an Arab state and a Jewish state, with Jerusalem to be under United Nations administration (see map). Most Jews in Palestine accepted the proposal, while most of the Arabs in Palestine rejected it. Although the Arabs were not under any legal obligation to accept the plan (as General Assembly resolutions are not binding), it is often claimed that their main motivation in doing so was the total rejection of the idea of a Jewish state.

    And, yes, the Jews did occupy the West Bank, but only after the Arabs attacked them. Repeatedly.

    On May 14, 1948, the last British forces withdrew from Palestine, and the Jews in Palestine declared the creation of the State of Israel, in accordance with the Partition Plan.
    On the same day, the Arabs announced their rejection of the Partition Plan. Shortly after, Syrian, Iraqi, and Egyptian troops invaded Israel. Israel successfully repelled the armies, and then advanced its forces to occupy most of the territory set aside under the Partition Plan for the Arabs and for the City of Jerusalem.

    Whoops! No 1 for the Arab states.

    In June 1967, the united Arab military command massed troops along the borders, while Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran and Nasser insisted that the UNEF leave Egypt. The Six-Day War began when on June 5 of that year, the Israeli air force launched preemptive attacks destroying the air force of Egypt, later the same day neutralising the air forces of Jordan and Syria. Israel then defeated (almost successively) Egypt, Jordan and Syria.

    Whoops! No 2 for the Arab states.

    The Yom Kippur War began when on October 6, 1973 (the Jewish Day of Atonement) the Syrian and Egyptian armies launched a simultaneous attack on Greater Israel and inflicted a heavy defeat on the surprised Israeli Defence Force (IDF). After a three week struggle the invaders were pushed back, the land recaptured and a UN peacekeeping force put in place.

    Whoops! No 3 for the Arab states. And what happened when Sadat of Egypt finally signed a Peace Treaty with Israel?

    The Arab League reacted to the peace treaty by suspending Egypt from their organisation and moving their headquarters from Cairo to Tunis. Sadat was later assassinated by members of the Egyptian army which had opposed his efforts to make peace with Israel.

    Nor is it any use saying that neither Bin Laden nor the bombers are poor and oppressed and that they don't care about Palestinians. The leaders of the Russian revolution weren't poor and they despised the peasants. But their ideas would have had no traction without the miseries inflicted on Russians under the tsars, and nor would Bin Laden's without the humiliations visited on Islamic countries, and the poverty that remains endemic.

    That poverty is of the Muslim countries' own making. They have enormous reserves of possibly the most economically valuable natural resource there has ever been, and yet still there economies are stagnant. Why?

    A climate has been created in which a minority of Muslims, some living in the west but feeling detached from western society, believe there's a war going on.

    Why? What makes them feel detached? Do they detach themselves, preferring to be Muslim rather than British or American?

    How do you prosecute a war against the US and Britain?

    Well, unless you are a recognised state, you cannot legally declare war on anyone. Islam is not a legally recognised state.

    Muslims fight us on their own soil, but why should they not carry the fight to our homelands as we carry it to theirs? They do not possess the aircraft to fly over Washington and London and carry out "precision bombing".

    Ah, yes; the Red-Ken-understands-the-Palestinians argument again. Yeah, but what exactly are we doing to their homelands? Freeing them from oppressive rulers? I don't seem to hear the Afghans clamouring for the Taliban to return, nor the Iraqis for Saddam to be reinstated. The Muslims have a number of grievances; unfortunately, their central demands are—and I'll repeat this—not ours to accede to.

    But it is the price we pay for living in a democracy: theoretically, we are in charge so we are frontline targets.

    There is a problem with this. The Koran urges all Muslims to be warriors. We do not urge all of our citizens or, indeed, regard them, as warriors. This is why we have an army that people join voluntarily, and a world-wide set of rules governing the carrying on of war. If any Muslim state were, in fact, to declare war on us, we would fight their army with our army. We would not, and do not, deliberately target civilians.

    "Responsibility" is a better word than "blame". We demand it, rightly, of those who carry out the atrocities; we should demand it also of ourselves and our rulers. The bombers, or rather those who control and influence them, are clear they are at war. President Bush seemed to agree when he declared a "war on terror".

    Legally they cannot be at war, since they are not a state. And the war on terror was simply, probably ill-advised, rhetoric, but rhetoric nevertheless. It is not a legal agreement.

    Is our role in this war a just one? Do we want to continue the war? If not, what will we do to stop it? Those are the questions we need to ask ourselves.

    These are a little simplistic. Is our role a just one? Well, it depends whether you are a moral relativist or not, really. If you think that there are some fucking awful regimes who should not hold power of indiscriminate life and death over people, then yes. If you believe that the atrocities carried out in the name of Sharia are just the enactions of a different—but entirely valid—set of beliefs from ours, then probably not. Personally, I'm of the former opinion (and the sporadic, and viciously repressed, demonstrations in Iran would tend to back me up).

    So what, indeed, can we do to stop the war? Not much, since we cannot dissolve Israel or demand that Russia hands Chechnya to Muslim control or desert the fledgling Iraqi government, legitimately voted for by 73% of the Iraqi population to the extremists. Nor can we force everyone in our secular world to convert to Islam.

    So, whether or not we wish to continue the war is an irrelevant question: there is nothing that we can do, practically, to stop it.

    Using semantics to obfuscate

    UPDATE 2
    I have just added some considerable chunks to this post since yesterday, and a few new links, so I have replaced it to the top of the page.

    Just in case anyone is in any doubt about my assertions on Iran, here's a little speech from the new Iranian president.

    "Art reaches perfection when it portrays the best life and best death. After all, art tells you how to live. That is the essence of art. Is there art that is more beautiful, more divine, and more eternal than the art of martyrdom? A nation with martyrdom knows no captivity. Those who wish to undermine this principle undermine the foundations of our independence and national security. They undermine the foundation of our eternity.

    "The message of the [Islamic] Revolution is global, and is not restricted to a specific place or time. It is a human message, and it will move forward.

    "Have no doubt... Allah willing, Islam will conquer what? It will conquer all the mountain tops of the world."

    And now, a chastisement from a, Saudi sheikh, of "those who shirk Jihad".

    And, of course, some stirring word's from the man himself.

    (Via Eric S)

    BTW, does anyone else find the whole style of writing a bit weird? It's like, well, Biblical-type rhetoric mixed with the banal and mundane (even allowing for difficulties in idiomatic translation). Extraordinary.


    Via Nosemonkey, these posts at Talk Politics and Newshog come my way. It relates to this Times opinion piece by Anthony Browne. You can also read my initial postings in the comments.

    Let me explain what I'm going to do here: normally on this blog, I write (personal) opinion pieces, having gleaned opinions and news from (mainly) bloggers and the op.ed.s that they refer to. I do not usually get involved in particular pieces, since I know very little about the MSM: the only things that I read on a regular basis are The Spectator and Private Eye. However, while I should lay out that I do not necessarily agree with the Anthony Browne piece, nor think it is a particularly skilled piece of writing, the critiques by these two bloggers have got me piqued. I intend to show that these critiques are nothing more than semantic and philosophical hair-splitting (coupled with a bit of name-calling), reminiscent of A Level practical crtiticisms.

    (Oh, and Scott Burgess also mentions this, on The Daily Ablution, and so does The Pedant-General in Ordinary.)

    It's difficult to know where to start, really, but let's start with Newshog, since his is the shorter piece. Newshog starts off nice and early with the name calling:

    Today, the London Times allowed a known racist to rewrite history in an attempt to justify some of it's readers' closet bigotry.

    Unfortunately, being so ignorant of the MSM, I didn't know that Anthony Browne was a racist. However, I'm sure that a responsible blogger like Newshog would not just sling names at people without producing evidence for it, so I'm sure my ignorance won't matter. And, sure enough:

    You wil no doubt find it as interesting as I did that Browne enters into friendly correspondence with V-Dare, an online journal of the Center For American Unity where you will find such gems as "black men have on average 3 to 19 percent more testosterone than white men" and:

    it is true. Africans do tend to have low IQs.
    The average IQ of sub-Saharan Africans in Africa has been studied many times over many decades. It keeps coming out almost two standard deviations below that of Europeans and nearly two and half standard deviations below that of Northeast Asians.

    And this guy has the nerve to attack the guardian for employing an intern who was a member of an Islamic extremist group?

    There are two points of note here: firstly, of course, this is not a blanket "we hate non-whites" racist comment on the grounds that, if you read the second paragraph closely, it actually says that Northeast Asians have a higher average IQ than Europeans. The second point to note is that this whole issue has been quite extensively researched and is—subject, like any other scientific theory, to Popper's theory of falsifiability—actually true. It doesn't really matter if, as many do, you think that IQ tests are flawed: all Browne is doing here is relaying the data. Scientific fact should not be subjected to the whim of fashionable political theories: we may as well start burning books. So, error number 1 for Mr Newshog.

    The mere fact that Anthony Browne writing in today's London Times conveniently "forgets" that by far the biggest British cheerleader for the Nazis was the London Times itself says volumes about the rest of the particulars of this piece of idiocy. I don't want to be making strawman attacks here but when a writer will compromise his integrity so totally on a matter of historical record one must needs wonder what lengths he will go to when recording hysteria.

    This is such an utterly irrelevant point that one needs to stand back for a second, and then point and laugh at it for a while. I mean, of all the ludicrous GCSE arguments, this old chestnut must be one of the most staggeringly stupid. What the stance of The Times was in the 1930s, under a different owner, is stunningly irrelevant.

    As a matter of fact, still raw from WWI, the majority of the populace was pro-appeasement. This was not because people were Nazi-sympathisers, but because they were desperate not to get embroiled in yet another hugely destructive, expensive and bloody conflagration. This is why Churchill and the others who were pro-war were shouted down so vociferously; people would rather do almost anything than go to war again.

    So another kick for Mr Hog, along with the warning that if you "don't want to be making strawman attacks" then I suggest that you don't, well, create a strawman argument.

    I'm not even going to bother counterattacking Browne's assertion that "support of Islamic fascism spans Britain’s Left" as he then disproves himself nicely by not mentioning the mainstream Left such as the Labor [sic] Party, trade unions or even the Scottish Nationalists but instead only Ken Livingston, George Galloway and the Socialist Workers Party. The latter are a source of endless amusement to most UK lefties, being stuck in a 70's timewarp.

    Lordy, are they really? Well, I'm willing to bet that it wasn't the Conservative voters who elected Red Ken to be Mayor. I'm also willing to bet that it also wasn't they who Galloway (whose Respect party is backed by the SWP. Oh, and the Muslim Association of Britain). Are starting to see a pattern here? Unless, of course, these gentlemen were elected by a minority core of fundamentalists somehow, erm...

    It also seems to be slightly perverse not to "bother counterattacking Browne's assertion that "support of Islamic fascism spans Britain’s Left"" since that seems to be one of the central thrusts of the piece, i.e. that left-wing media, like The Guardian think that letting Islamist extremists like Dilpazier Aslam write pieces on the bombings, etc. shows, at best, an incredible lack of judgement and, at worst, a sympathy with his aims.

    More importantly, he is attacking the Leftist mindset, a mindset is simply unable to comprehend the concept of personal responsibility. This is demonstrated in the original fisking post by Andrew Sullivan.

    THE PATHOLOGY OF ROBERT FISK: His account of his ordeal at the hands of an Afghan mob – a mob that apparently cried “Infidel!” as they attacked and tried to rob him – is a classic piece of leftist pathology. You have to read it to believe it. Even when people are trying to murder Fisk, he adamantly refuses to see them as morally culpable or even responsible.

    The central tenet of conservatism, which most people would place on the right of the political spectrum, is the concept of personal responsibility; the Left believe in the very opposite. They essentially believe in a world where "Individual notions of responsibility or morality are banished, as one group is labeled [sic] blameless and another irredeemably malign" [AS again] and in which people are solely the product of their environment, with no personal responsibility at all. Apart from the repugnance of the idea that we, as humans, have no personal moral choice, this idea is demonstrably wrong. There are many people who grow up in the most appalling conditions who go on to lead happy, blameless lives; there are also those who have grown up in a lush environment who are complete shits (I, personally, know many of both).

    Thus, the Leftist media, of which the Guardian is the most notable banner-bearer, is simply totally incapable of condemning unreservedly the London bombings; they have to slip in that actually it's all our fault... blah... Afghanistan... blah... Iraq whilst ignoring the facts (that we were attacked many times before the Iraq war, that the majority of the Iraqi people walked miles to vote to show their support, that the Iranian Muslim cleric leading the Iraq "uprising" delared war on "the principle of democracy and all those who seek to enact it rather than the US invaders, etc.). In this way, they are apologists for the radical Islamists, as they were for Stalin, and as many were for the Nazis. However, the apologists for the Nazis were not only, to some extent, ignorant of the dark scenes going on behind the economic recovery, but also desperate not to find dark scenes in order to avoid war. In this case, the Leftist media is actively trying to find a justification for the appalling actions of the Islamists, in much the same way as they did for the Communists.

    Nazism was a political movement that had control of an entire Great Power (on a par with hte modern G8 nations) while a large percentage of it's population sat back and let it happen for (mainly) economic reasons. Islamic extremism is as much the enemy of the vast bulk of Muslims as it is of anyone else - and moderate Muslims by-and-large already understood this. There was a complacency factor among UK Muslims which has now been very definitely overcome.

    Yes, well, up to a point Lord Copper. This poll showed that a considerable number of Muslims had sympathy and understanding with the London bombers. And I wonder, how much more sympathy do you think that suicide bombers would get had the poll been asking the same questions about those who bomb innocent Israelis? Just thinking aloud there.

    There is no likelihood of the extremists ever getting control of a major industrial and economic (think G8) power with the capacity for advanced armaments. They simply will not ever have the power base.

    Yeah, well, this is, again, rather debatable. One could point at Iran for instance, or even Saudi Arabia; the laws in these countries, i.e. Sharia, are the kind of laws that we would assign to extremists. Alright, they may not be G8 countries and are unlikely to be so, since radical Islam, almost by its very nature, stifles innovation and, of course, personal freedom. Oh, and security of tenure, as Mr Worstall would put it. They may not be G8, but I'm willing to bet that Iran, at least, will very soon be a nuclear power (see also this post).

    But saying Islamic extremists are like the Nazis is a great smokescreen when you are already a bigot making senseless generalisations and want to hide your bigotry under a smokescreen of faux concern.

    I think that there is a bigot around here somewhere; however, I would like to propose that the bigot is, in fact, Newshog. He sees that Mr Browne subscribes to a scientific theory—backed by evidence—that disagrees with Mr Hog's worldview and suddenly the headline is "London Times Racist Rewrites History". Do you see?

    Let us not forget that then Home Secretary David Blunkett once described Browne in the House of Commons as "bordering on fascism".

    Apart from the fact that this is the pot calling the kettle black, was Blunkett really describing Browne, or was he describing something that Browne said or wrote? Do we think that, just possibly, he may have said that because he disagreed with Mr Browne and decided to start name-calling? Oh, hang on, that would never happen; would it, Newshog?

    I found Mr Newshops post via Nosemonkey, who wrote

    Note to idiots: Nazism was an ideology based on hatred, and the majority of true Nazis were nutters.

    Browne wrote "They [the left-wing media] may not want a global theocracy, but they are like the West’s apologists for the Soviet Union — useful idiots". I found Nosemonkey's lack of denunciation of the Soviets somewhat worrying. In what way, exactly, was Nazism "an ideology based on hatred" and Communism not? And, in fact, one could posit that the Muslim creed, especially that of the so-called fundamentalists, is also based on hatred; most specifically hatred of the Jews, but also of infidels.

    There is also the problem of integration, which is discussed in the comments at Harry's Place. The main problem here is that Muslims do tend to self-ghettoize themselves; after all, Muslims are forbidden to marry non-Muslims: yes, I know that this applies to the Catholic Church as well, but the Catholics do not carry out "honour" killings. Nor does the Christian faith advocate the killing of those who turn away from it. Right there, that is a slight problem in trying to integrate Muslims into secular communities such as ours. Anyway, enough; I must now tackle the piece over at Talk Politics.

    On the subject of the Communists, Unity has this to say:

    Wow, what an opener. Hitler, Islam and the Soviet Union all in the first sentence – three bogeymen for the price of one – and a reference to the myth that Lenin described supposedly 'liberal apologists' for Bolshevism as 'useful idiots', something he didn't actually say.

    Browne is being rather sparing with historical detail here. Elements in the British establishment were initially sympathetic towards Hitler, but the so were elements in US establishment include Franklin D. Roosevelt who spoke admiringly of Nazi Germany on several occasions during the 1930's, long before the downside of Nazism became apparent to the world outside Germany.

    Note how Unity says nothing about the Soviet apologists comparison (though he does correctly flag up that Lenin did not coin the phrase "useful idiots" (although, exactly how that is relevant, apart from being a bit of intellectual one-upmanship, I'm not sure).

    Why should I care? Well, yes, it took a while for "the downside of Nazism" to become apparent; however, people supported the Communists (who killed many, many more people than Hitler), despite having a pretty good idea of what was going on in Russia. And, indeed, Communism has its supporters even now. However, let's move on.

    Islamists, like Hitler, scapegoat Jews for their problems and want to destroy them.

    So what are we saying here, that anti-Semitism and fascism are synonymous? Because if we are then amongst the list of famous historical fascists you'll find...

    Richard the Lionheart - had a delegation of London Jews beaten and refused entry to his coronation ceremony – he kept the gifts, mind you!

    Martin Luther – who when not nailing his thoughts on the Catholic church to cathedral doors found time to write the nattily entitled, 'On the Jews and their lies' – no doubt a bit of best-seller in its day.

    Far too many Popes, Cardinals and other Catholic clergy to list them all, but with a special mention for Thomas Torquemada and the Spanish Inquisition who favoured torture as a means on converting Jews to Christianity... and burning Jews at the stake if they found to have pretended to convert in order to avoid being tortured – bit of Catch 22 when you think about it.

    Charles Dickens – creator of the character of Fagin in Oliver Twist who reflected accurately the stereotypical image of Jews which was widely held by Victorian Society.

    The House of Romanov - the first pogroms against the Russian Jewry took place in Odessa in either 1821 or 1859, depending on which source you take as accurate, but really started in earnest in 1881 when, first, Russian Jews were blamed, unfairly, for the assassination of Alexander II – and then blamed, again, for the ensuing riots in 166 towns across Russia, by his successor, Alexander III. Hell, why waste a good scapegoat when you've got one.

    All these examples pre-date the advent of fascism, which arose in Italy in the 1890's.

    The simple, historical fact is that anti-Semitism has a long and undistinguished history going back well over a millennium before the advent of fascism – and for the most part the perpetrators were Christians, not Muslims. In fact, by and large, the Jews faired far better in Islamic societies such as the Ottoman Empire where the only real penalty for being a Jew was that you paid higher taxes so long as you generally behaved yourself, played by the Ottoman's rules and didn't challenge their authority.

    Yes, you see? A classic strawman argument: I think that it is perfectly clear that Browne is not saying that anti-Semitism is the same as fascism. He merely points out that "like Hitler", Islamists scapegoat the Jews. The rest of this stuff is just, again, intellectual one-upmanship. Very interesting, but essentially irrelevant.

    Islamists, like Hitler, decree that the punishment for homosexuality is death.

    Let's not forget our own less than stellar track record on homosexuality, before we start condemning others.

    Homosexuality was only legalised in the UK in the 1960's and homosexuals were only then given parity with heterosexuals in terms of the legal age of consent in 2001 – and then only after the use of the Parliament Act to force the legislation past the House of Lords.

    Yes, but the law was not actively enforced for a long time before that. And the punishment was never being hanged from a crane with nylon rope. And does anyone actually obey the law on the age of consent? We don't even prosecute people who get 11 year old girls pregnant or, indeed, those who abet this criminal act. Perdonally, I think the age of consent for all sex should be raised to 18 myself, but that's another story.

    During the 1950's, in Britain, homosexuality was widely regarded as a kind of psychiatric disorder which could be 'treated' using aversion therapy which frequently made use of ECT - electro-convulsion therapy. Less than 50 years ago, we were administering electric shocks to gay men on the entirely false premise that it could cure them of their 'deviant' behaviour.

    Yes, but will you accept that we have actually moved on? Because, at least legally, we have developed/become more tolerant; however you want to put it. The problem with Islamists is that they cannot develop legally because the Koran is their law, and the Koran written by a man who has been dead for over a thousand years. He cannot revise those laws in the light of modern tolerances, and thus neither can those who believe the Koran to be the literal Word of Allah. And since Mohammed was the last prophet, Allah cannot "speak" through anyone else either.

    As is the case with anti-Semitism, prejudice against homosexuality is not a characteristic that's exclusive to either fascism or radical Islam.

    And I fail to see Unity's point. Browne is drawing a comparison; whether you think that that comparison is right or not is, on this point, irrelevant. The important thing to note is that at no point does Browne say the above. So yet another strawman has been thrown up.

    Nazis aimed for their Thousand-Year Reich, while Islamists aim for their eternal Caliphate.

    And the Jews aim for sovereignty over land they believe was given to them by God, Communists believe that one the workers gain control of the means of production the state will wither away to nothingness and Neo-liberals believe that the road to perpetual economic growth and prosperity will come via the creation of a universal free market.

    Another strawman. He's drawing comparisons to the Nazis, not to any of the other systems mentioned. This criticism lark is really easy if you make up the questions that you want to answer, eh?

    The sole defining characteristic of fascism – the one thing that sets is apart from the mainstream, although not from other revolutionary ideologies such as Bolshevism, is its use of violence, of the mob, to achieve its goals, but this is also the one area in which there is marked difference between fascism and radical Islam; radical Islam having adopted the methods of revolutionary anarchism and the use of 'spectacular' acts of terror rather than seek to forge a mass movement.

    These are certainly two radical, extreme ideologies, but they are not the same.

    There is a lot more in this vein, but I just can't be bothered to post it as it is pretty much rebutted by this very easily found article on Wikipedia:

    Fascism was typified by attempts to impose state control over all aspects of life. Many scholars consider fascism to be part of, or in coalition with, extreme right politics. The definitional debates and arguments by academics over the nature of fascism, however, fill entire bookshelves. There are clearly elements of both left and right ideology in the development of Fascism.

    Modern colloquial usage of the word has extended the definition of the terms fascism and neofascism to refer to any totalitarian worldview regardless of its political ideology, although scholars frown on this.


    The term fascism has come to mean any system of government resembling Mussolini's, that in various combinations:

    • exalts the nation, (and in some cases the race, culture, or religion) above the individual, with the state apparatus being supreme.

    • stresses loyalty to a single leader.

    • uses violence and modern techniques of propaganda and censorship to forcibly suppress political opposition.

    • engages in severe economic and social regimentation.

    • engages in syndicalist corporatism.

    • implements totalitarian systems.

    Browne is not, I would imagine, a scholar: I also doubt that more than a tiny percentage of his readers are either. The colloquial understanding of fascism is entirely fine here. Also, f you accept the perception of power politics as a ring—as I was taught—there is no difference between fascism and Communism or, in any meaningful sense, Sharia. All three are statist regimes that compel, though force if necessary, their citizens to live every aspect of their lives in the manner that the state decrees. The state will tolerate no dissenting views.

    Now, if you can tell me why Iran (to pick an example of Sharia in action) cannot, by the definitions above, cannot be called a fascist state, I would be interested to know. But Unity's on a roll; after all, he wrote about this a little while ago and it's a chance to develop his ideas. However, he gets sidetracked by Al-Qaradawi, of the Muslim Association of Britain, who, whilst condemning the 9/11 attacks, apparently approves of suicide bombing in Israel.

    Islamic law recognises two different types of Jihad, 'Offensive Jihad' – the purpose of which is to bring non-Muslim territory under Islamic control, and 'Defensive Jihad' – the purpose of which is to defend Islam and Islamic territory from invasion and occupation, in the sense of it being controlled, not merely by living there under Islamic rule, by non-Muslims.

    At this time, 'Offensive Jihad', which would permit and sanction attacks on non-Muslim soil, is not an option – Islamic jurisprudence is such that an Offensive Jihad can only be declared and sanctioned by a legitimate Caliph, and since there has been no such Caliph since the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire on the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1924 by Mustapha Kemal Ataturk there is no possibility of Offensive Jihad – hence Bin Laden's repeated references to 'eighty years' in slating the US, the period – approximately – since the end of the last Caliphate. This proves that Bin Laden is no historian as the US played no role at all in either of the Treaties of Sevrés or Lausanne which broke up the Ottoman Empire, nor is Ataturk's decision to finish the job entirely by declaring a secular Turkish republic and also – by logical inference, that a global Caliphate is a non-starter at the present time as well, as well as explaining why Al-Qaradawi has condemned the attacks on New York.

    Well, that was very generous of him. And, as it happens, this idea of the Offensive and Defensive jihad is an interesting tidbit. However, once again, it is largely irrelevant—from the point of view of our own security—as it may well be true that under Islamic law there is—due to the lack of Caliph—no possibility of "Offensive Jihad" it must be pretty obvious by now that Al-Qa'eda and their associates, disagree somewhat. Unless, of course, New York and London are considered to be part of the ancient Muslim world?

    While we may see no difference between the different contexts in which such attacks have taken place and take the view that a suicide bombing is a suicide bombing and wrong no matter where it thappens, Islamic law and Islamic jurisprudence take a different view and make a distinction between the two.

    Well, that's very nice for them. However, this makes them all the more dangerous and unpleasant; to have a law which allows the deliberate targeting of innocents is just wrong. To fail to see anything wrong with this is even more unpleasant, and simply not forgiveable (well, technically, under Islamic law, it is, of course).

    Then on to good old Dilpazier:

    That he made no secret of his association with Hizb ut-Tahrir during employment is neither here nor there either as its clear that whatever personal/political opinions he may have expressed while 'at the office' were not sufficient to raise concerns over his employment. This is no different to the situation in any other workplace – colleagues may well hold personal opinions with which you vehemently disagree but so long as they do not bring those views into the workplace itself this is of no consequence to their continued employment.

    Mmmhmm. The trouble is that he did bring it into the workplace, didn't he? He was writing articles on Shabina Begum whilst the radical organisation of which he was a member was representing and advising her. The issue here is really one of disclosure. Did he reveal that his organisation was involved with Ms Begum? Did he declare it in any of the articles? No. This is a clear conflict of interest; the very least that he should have done is to declare his interest.

    Browne use of the suggestion that this is in some way a move towards Shariah Law in the UK is palpable nonsense. It also, in the context of its use by Browne in this particular article and in support of his thesis that radicalism within Islam constitutes a threat to British society – in my personal opinion – clearly racist.

    Surely its "religionist" if anything, isn't it? And I'm sorry, but if his main point is that "radicalism within Islam constitutes a threat to British society" then I'd agree with him. Let's assume that we had a radical Islamic government of the sort that Iran have; would this be a threat to our British way of life? Yes, it would, i.e. we wouldn't have a British way of life. Do the Iranian's have an Iranian way of life? No, they have an Islamic way of life. After all

    The ultimate goal of radical Islam seeks is not the creation of a racially pure Islamic master race but the conversion of everyone to Islam – the 'perfect' Islamic society is one which everyone is a believer irrespective of their racial/ethnic origins.

    The trouble is, in a country ruled by Sharia, it doesn't matter if you actually believe or not: you are required—compelled—to live as if you did. And all of this is all just thoelogical philosophy anyway. What I don't get about the Left is that are really willing to believe that the US invaded Iraq and Afghanistan to build their evil empire, but that Muslims are in some way totally pure and concerned only with their spirituality.

    This is simply untrue. The mullahs in Iran control almost the entirety of the economy, farming out separate bits amongst themselves, rather like the alien family farm different aspects of the town in Diana Wynne Jones' Archer's Goon. What drives them is money and power, not the love of Allah; the religion, in this case, is simply window-dressing (and a useful justification of the repression of their people). In this respect, of course, they are much more like the Communists (and the fact that Communism was an intellectual concept also makes it closer to Islam). I believe that it was Lord Acton, the British historian, who said: "All power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely." (BTW, a good essay on that here.)

    Tell you what, I'm bored now. The zeal I had for this project a couple of days ago has waned somewhat, and I can keep on picking holes in Unity's arguments till the cows come home, but I have, in essence, said all that I need to say. Just one last set of points:

    Socialist solutions are constructive, not destructive. Expelling the destructive influence of radical clerics is not enough, mere short-term expediency arising from a political need to placate the wider electorate. What's really needed here is the inculcation of constructive influences within the Britain's Muslim community, influences which would come with a new generation of religious leaders, Imams who have been brought up, educated and – probably – born in Britain and who have grown up understanding what is it to live in Britain and to bridge and mediate the conflicting demands of being both British and a Muslim.

    What? Like the London bombers? Or Richard Reid?

    We cannot force the Muslim community down the road of secularism, such actions breed resentment which, in turn, supports and sustain radicalism, nor can we rely on short-term fixes and political expediency of the kind Browne suggests. There are equally, if not more, counter-productive and work against us. British Muslims, and young Muslims in particular, need to find an accommodation which enables them to be both British and Muslim and comfortable with both identities, an accommodation which they can only find through Islam.

    Do I need to point out the logical flaw in this argument? Look, Unity has spent much of his pointing out that

    in the Islamic world statute law, being part of the Qu'ran, is the word of Allah as transcribed by Muhammed and therefore inviolate and not subject to change.

    There are certain aspects of our culture—our tolerance of homosexuality, the equality of women, separation of Church and state, the freedom to believe or not in anything, our fondness for drinking, our absolute condemnation (with the notable exception of moonbats like Galloway, Livingstone and Michael Moore and this bunch of "moderates", amongst others) of the deliberate targeting of civilians by suicide bombers, sex outwith marriage and much more—that are simply incompatible with the writings of Mohammed, and thus the word of Allah himself.

    That requires both tolerance and patience on our part – British Muslims have to find and define their own identity, we cannot do it for them, something which Browne seems not to understand.

    And in the meantime, exactly how much patience do we have to have? How many bodies, oops, sorry, years are going to be enough? And, if Muslim law cannot be altered, are we always going to live under the threat of bombs until Islam has disappeared totally? Should we be asking how many centuries, rather than years, will be long enough? Where is the incentive for them to make that shift in attitude anyway? And how do you convince someone that the secular law of the country in which they live must dominate the law of Allah?

    Furthermore, if British Muslims come to terms with being both British and Muslim over a few generations, how long will it then take immigrant Muslims? And, since travel is so cheap and easy, will we have to continually worry about radical Muslims from abroad coming here to organise terrorism? Or to radicalise the younger, disillusioned generations (as has happened already)?

    Unity believes that the problems of reconciling the Iraq war have led the pro-war Left to declare radical Islam a "fascist ideaology" in order to square their Socialist consciences over the illegality of the war.

    Where this leaves the Labour movement is, unfortunately, in the grip of an unstable element who propaganda is driving the policy agenda in directions which are detrimental to our own society and, in particular, to civil liberties – hence we get everything from ID cards to a range new and more authoritarian anti-terrorist legislation pushed through will little or no real debate – the desperate efforts of a few to sustain their own sense of [left-wing] identity ends up supporting and pushing ahead a distinctly illiberal, authoritarian and right-wing political agenda which would otherwise be stringently opposed.

    I think that radical Islam is a dangerous ideology. Personally, I would put it closer to Communism than fascism myself, but the fact is that we must realise the problem and do everything that we can to minimise the spread of this deeply unpleasant aspect of The Religion Of Peace.

    However, I do agree, up to a point, with the paragraph above, and I do think that the posited motive may be why the Left support these measures (although, I am not, in any way, a Socialist and I would not describe myself as being anywhere near the Left). I think that the government are seizing the terrorism threat as an opportunity to propose this "distinctly illiberal, authoritarian and right-wing [I disagree with this. Was Stalin right-wing? I think that totalitarian would be a rather better word-DK] political agenda" with the Left's support; however, the government's motives are much more simple. Control.

    "All power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely."

    What my point is here, really, is that Unity has wilfully used semantic and philosophical hair-splitting in an attempt to discredit the article's author, whilst simultaneously completely missing the point of the article itself. Unity's definition of fascism is so absurdly simplistic that it is actually wrong, and thus discredits&mdashor renders redundant—vast swathes of his critique. The conclusions he drawson Islam are, even within his own commentary, entirely contradictory (besides being disproven by events); furthermore, he keeps insisting on talking about Islam as a general religion, rather than the extremist militant facet to which Browne was referring (the "Offensive Jihad" idea being a prime example. Islam says one thing, OBL and his associates do another).

    And, since enormous swathes of his commentary are redundant or strawman arguments, Unity is left with flawed conclusions, contradicting points he has already made. Furthermore, whilst seeming to offer a solution—"British Muslims have to find and define their own identity"—Unity actually offers no idea of how, either theologically or practically, this might happen (as well as pointing out earlier in the text that, theologically, it cannot happen because the Koran is immutable). He offers no solution to the integration issue, and ignores the problem of radical Islamic treatment of apostasy in relation to these questions. In short, he comes over as being smug and rather self-satisfied whilst offering nothing new to the debate at all; more importantly, he entirely fails to do the required job of "fisking" the article.

    NHS Fail Wail

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