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"We admire the development of the peace movement around the world in the last few years. We pray to God to empower all those working against war." - Saddam Hussein, February 2003

Saturday, October 19, 2002  

Dangerous doesn't necessarily mean illegal

PATRICK CROZIER of UK Transport fame has returned, and so has his blog Croziervision, this time in the form of an ordinary commentary on the issues of the day rather than in the form of a digest of other blogs. It will be well worth the read again, I am sure.

As he begins by challenging me, I ought to say a little in my defence.

Cuthbertson mentions the case of a grandfather who overdosed on Ecstasy and died. His view is that this proves the case for the continuation of a ban on all drugs.

Well, actually, I didn't say that at all. The exact words I used five posts down were:

Another indication that ecstasy is not the soft drug many claim it to be, and, I believe, a deserving nominee for a Darwin Award.

I don't particularly want to get into a drugs debate, and I don't claim to be in favour of lighter penalties for drug-abuse. The sort of society I hope for one day is one where laws against drugs would be superfluous, just as they were for most of the Victorian era, because people had more sense and more moral fibre than to take them. So in that sense I support legalising drugs. But in terms of everyday 21st Century Britain, I want the existing drugs laws to be enforced with avengeance and I am strongly behind Oliver Letwin's treatment-or-jail policy in this matter. But that is an argument for another day. What I would challenge is the assertion that by pointing to the obvious dangers of drugs, one is arguing for their criminalisation.

I fail to see why it is not perfectly consistent to believe that drugs like cannabis and heroin are wicked, immoral and fatally dangerous, but at the same time support them being legalised. It cannot be said often enough that just because one believes it should not be a crime to do something does not mean one approves of people doing it. I disapprove of lying, of adultery and of reading the Daily Mirror. But I don't think any of them should be illegal. To say that stressing the dangers of poisonous narcotics is to support bans on them is to suggest that the state's evaluation of what substances are safe and unsafe should determine the laws of the land. Just because something is considerably dangerous, as ecstasy, as cannabis, as heroin and as LSD clearly are, it doesn't mean they should necessarily be illegal.

In one Libertarian Alliance pamphlet, Brian Micklethwait described how he had come away from a drugs discussion with a political opponent with his views changed: though he continued to support legalising cannabis despite what he had heard about the drug's dangers, he recognised that the opposing argument was stronger than he had initially believed. But as an afterthought, he realised he had been premature in granting this point: to a libertarian, safety is not the issue. It doesn't matter if a substance can kill instantly or take two minutes from the life of one in every million users, because the decision is not the government's to make. I think this is an entirely appropriate way for a libertarian to approach the issue. So one can perfectly well, like me, believe drugs such as cannabis and heroin to be very dangerous, immoral in whatever quantities taken and damaging to the person in all sorts of long term ways unrelated to health, but simultaneously, like Patrick, support their legalisation.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 07:50 | Permanent Link |

Foreign policy has to be based on more than talk

JONAH GOLDBERG WRITES in such a casual, populist and easy-going manner that he sometimes makes it difficult for the reader to appreciate the sophistication and insight of his political analyses. His brilliant piece on why Europe doesn't really want a foreign policy is just such a case. Ultimately, he shows, foreign policy is based upon force and the threat of force. Negotiation is of course preferable, but without a military backup, a country has no way of fighting injustice in the world or ensuring that its voice is taken seriously. By concentrating solely on negotiation and compromise at the expense of a strong defence, Europe has thrown away any chance that it can have a serious foreign policy.

Much of Europe has developed a political culture that tends to see talk as the answer to every problem, because talking is the only option readily available to them.

... Second, because the Europeans must rely on talk, diplomacy, negotiation, engagement — different words for the same tool — to solve their problems, they are more willing to promise things they otherwise wouldn't. Psychologically, it's much easier to think you are making a reasonable accommodation to a bully if, in reality, you have little choice in the matter. Thus, many European nations have encouraged or accommodated all sorts of nasty players in the spirit of "enlightened diplomacy," in large part because they had no choice.

... France's position in the U.N. Security Council, like that of the antiwar Democrats here in the U.S., amounts to wanting the results a threat of war might yield — disarmament, regime change, etc. — without even the possibility of actually threatening war, under any circumstances.

... Real foreign policies, like it or not, must include the credible use of force as an option — if only a rare one (consider how ineffective police deterrence would be if cops ruled out the use of force at the outset, instead promising to talk bank robbers into turning themselves in). By taking their defense for granted for so long, too many of our allies believe that talk can get them everything they need.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 05:03 | Permanent Link |

Friday, October 18, 2002  

Queen's Council meets more than his match

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN a defendant in a trial is quick-witted, funny, smarter than the barrister prosecuting him and seems to have the judge on his side? British courts found out this week. Please, read these transcripts from an incredible trial that proceeded this Tuesday and Wednesday.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 21:33 | Permanent Link |

Back to industrial chaos

Old Labour: Firemen go on strike.
New Labour: Firefighters go on strike.

Get a good hosepipe, folks - we're living under a Labour government again. You can't count on anyone.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 18:47 | Permanent Link |

Junkie grandad meets his maker

ANOTHER INDICATION THAT ecstasy is not the soft drug many claim it to be, and, I believe, a deserving nominee for a Darwin Award.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 05:23 | Permanent Link |

Thursday, October 17, 2002  

Israel can fight back this time

ONE OF THE strongest reasons for rational people to show loyalty to Israel is that in 1991, Israel showed loyalty to us. Faced with scud attacks from Iraq, and possible chemical or biological attacks, Israel did not retaliate and break up the Arabs-included coalition that removed Saddam from Kuwait. Arab support being neither much offered nor really required this time around, President Bush has taken the logical step of giving Ariel Sharon the go-ahead to retaliate to any Iraqi attacks. Good. Now, Iraq will be deterred from attacking Israel, but if she does attack, we get a new ally as a result.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 05:52 | Permanent Link |

Wednesday, October 16, 2002  

The Right survives because it can answer criticism

READING THIS WEEK'S New Statesman (I picked up a free copy at the Tory Conference, okay?), I came across a piece lamenting the political right's dominance of radio and the internet. The focus was on the United States, but there was also a warning of what was to come over here. The New Statesman called for more controls by government over radio in order to prevent it.

Ben Shapiro focuses on the same phenomen at Townhall, today. Liberals, frustrated and confused that people would really rather listen to and read some old fashioned common sense, do their best to tip over the board of a game they just can't play.

The American left can't restrict Internet usage or ban talk radio, so it de-legitimizes these news sources. Ripping alternative news sources as illegitimate is the left's only remaining option -- it cannot compete with the right wing in the new media.

Not that the left hasn't tried. Mario Cuomo attempted to parlay his political fame into a talk-radio gig; he was so badly received that his show was pulled off the air. Jerry Brown met with the same fate, as did Alan Dershowitz. Jim Hightower, a self-described progressive populist, passed through the talk-radio world without notice.

On the 'Net, liberal failure has been just as complete. While Matt Drudge's Web site receives nearly 5 million hits per day, liberal news sites are virtually non-existent. is going the way of the dinosaurs, and is a mere facade. The only liberal Web sites that get any hits are established television channels like BBC, CNN and ABC News. There are no major leftist commentary sites to compete with conservative monsters like and, where normal news followers can post their opinions on the story du jour. The left has been left behind on the Web.

It's the inability to compete that has the liberals so angry. They don't understand why people won't listen to elite intelligentsia dither about politics but gladly tune in to hosts like Sean Hannity, a former construction worker with no college degree. They rant and rave over the newest phenomenon -- weblogs, or bloggers, where ordinary folks comment on the news in real time, allowing true Rousseau-ian democracy to flourish. Why, they ask, do more people visit libertarian/conservative bloggers Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Reynolds than the soon-to-be-extinct American Prospect blogger, TAPPED?

Here's the answer: The left cannot survive criticism. It is easy for liberals to air their views when the audience cannot challenge them. Network news is a perfect example -- when Peter Jennings sympathizes with Palestinian suicide bombers, viewers can kick their televisions and scream at Jennings, but Jennings cannot hear them. If Jennings had a talk show, though, he'd have to deal with the views of his audience. Print media is similar. Maureen Dowd can write nasty things about President Bush but would be hard pressed to respond to a reader's challenge.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 18:25 | Permanent Link |

Well done, Beloved Saddam

It's not just any leader who wins 100% of the vote. Sadly, I can't take the credit for this response:

"Hey Saddam, congratulations on your re-election. But don't get too comfortable; we're going to be sending a large recount squad your way pretty soon."

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 16:17 | Permanent Link |


Couple of wonderful British politics sites for your consumption. Scrofula's great Lib Dem and Guardian animated gifs alone had me loving the page. For more lofty commentary on the issues of the day, check out Richard D. North, who has a varied and interesting collection of writings.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 15:17 | Permanent Link |

Tuesday, October 15, 2002  

Conservative Party Conference Diary

Thursday, 10 October

On Thursday morning, everyone headed for good seats in the main Conference Hall, which was quickly packed. The main speech before the leader's came from Caroline Abel Smith, the Conference President, who won much applause for accurately describing the Liberal Democrats as a "nasty little party".

Iain Duncan Smith's own speech I considered fairly impressive. Perhaps the delivery was not at its best, I don't know, but in terms of what matters, the ideas expressed were sound. I had no doubt that the hall as a whole was massively on his side. "The Conservatives are back" is a message I have in the past considered as good political rhetoric, and it worked well in drawing the support of the hall.

Shortly after the speech, I happened to be there as he passed. I shook his hand and took his photo.

Overall, it was an excellent Conference, and I am very keen to go to them in the future. Now I shall return to ordinary blogging.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 02:03 | Permanent Link |

Monday, October 14, 2002  

Conservative Party Conference Diary

Wednesday, 9 October (Afternoon)

THE NEXT MEETING, on the subjects of Transport, Crime and Education, I found with difficulty. I walked in to a very crowded room, happy to stand at the back. I passed Boris Johnson, gurning merrily, and was pleased to see Peter Hitchens, a wonderful writer, also there. I planned to say hello to him at the end of the meeting, but sadly he left before the end.

Lord Strathcylde, Shadow Leader of the House of Lords, began by introducing the panel: Boris Johnson, Oliver Letwin and Sheila Lawlor from Politeia. Oliver Letwin rose after that and found that the microphone was not on, although it seemed it was not needed. After the microphone was turned on, he joked that Strathclyde had made a fantastic speech, sympathising with those of us at the back who hadn't been able to hear it. On education, he expressed exasperation at he modern education system, wondering if the lack of history-teaching in our schools was in part a cause of low turnout. He told of how he was contacted just before the last election by an eighteen year old girl doing work experience for a local paper. She asked him whom he most admired, and when he answered "Abraham Lincoln", he was rather taken aback that she needed to know the spelling. When Letwin was asked the two people he least admired, he realised it would be no good naming Caligula, so he stuck to the obvious names of Hitler and Stalin. But again, she didn't know them. He was shocked that many young people don't even know the basic "history of their own century".

On bureaucracy, he was witty. He related an anecdote of the American tin industry which, long after collapsing, still had employees. One bureaucrat's reports would read "There is no tin industry. I am listening to Beethoven records." - described as "refreshing" by his superiors.

Lord Strathclyde and Oliver Letwin both expressed fear that they would be overshadowed by Boris Johnson. Until he spoke, I thought this simply a reference to his eccentric charm. But his speech was very entertaining and clever. On crime, he spoke of how his bicycle had been stolen three and a half times - the half when the seat alone had been taken. His speech ended as he described how he had been running down Brighton beach and passed a closed ice cream kiosk with a sticker saying 'This kiosk is alarmed'.

"I asked myself - why did that kiosk have to be so alarmed? Would it have been alarmed like that fifty years ago?"

He concluded that the criminals had to be fought, wishing Oliver Letwin well in his crime policies.

Defence and Foreign Affairs were the topic for discussion in the main hall that afternoon. Bernard Jenkin and Michael Ancram both stressed their support for the special relationship with the United States. Falklands War hero Simon Weston spoke against the recent bureaucratic decision to continue with the SA80 rifle. He pointed out that good as it supposedly was, we'd been unable to sell it to the rest of the world. "Our boys are the best in the world" he said over and over, and they deserved the best equipment. He earned much applause for his attack on the National Lottery, which he said was happy to give money even to groups that were anti-British, but not to help war veterans and British troops.

Peter Caruana, Gibraltar's Chief Minister, won a warn reception: a standing ovation at the beginning and end of his speech in which he made the case against Spanish imperialism over Gibraltar.

Some of the more interesting contributions of the day came on the subject of Europe, with David Heathcoat-Amory attacking the get-out clause of an EU Constitution, requiring 75% support of the rest of the EU countries for any single country to leave, as a "slavery clause". Whatever modernisation the party should go through, he finished, we should never forget our principle that self-government by individual nations is the best government.

Multiple speakers from the floor called for the party to leave the European Union, to substantial applause, but they were ignored by the leadership, rightly unwilling to fight battles in which the public were not interested. We are learning the lessons of the last election.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 21:28 | Permanent Link |

Sunday, October 13, 2002  

Conservative Party Conference Diary

Wednesday, 9 October (Morning)

I BEGAN WEDNESDAY by attending a fringe meeting held by Conservative Friends of Israel. After I went in and sat down, David Trimble - much in the news the day before - entered for a while. Quiet and unassuming as I had heard, he waited quietly for a while, speaking to those who approached him. Alan Duncan was also there. Both left before the meeting finally started, about half an hour late.

The Israeli Ambassador preceded Dan Meridor, Minister Without Portfolio in Sharon's government. Meridor talked about the damage the Middle East Conflict had done to the Israeli economy, but contrasted it with the much worse damage done to the Palestinian economy, essentially noting that their wicked terrorism was cutting off their noses to spite their face. From their peak about two years ago, suicide bombings had fallen to one quarter or so of that level. Though he did not say it, Meridor gave the optimisic impression that Israel was winning the war on terrorism. There would have to be a two-state solution in the end, he confirmed, with Palestinians given a right to a land of their own. But the current leadership not wanting peace, that was still some way off. Until Arafat was replaced, it appeared the war would go on.

The next meeting was an interview with Oliver Letwin by The Observer's Andrew Rawnsley. It was wide-ranging and revealing. Letwin said his mother was not particularly fond of small children, and of him when he was younger, and that she dominated his family in a way he imagined "Mrs. T" dominated hers. Not a particular success as a contemporary of Charles Moore at Eton, he sometimes came bottom out of 280. At the time he was a revolutionary, nicknamed 'Oliver Leftwing', who abolished the fag system of beatings, never having beaten someone himself nor been beaten at school.

Letwin and Rawnsley, 9 October 2002

He said he hadn't intended to get involved in politics. Keith Joseph asked if he wanted to work for him at the Department of Education and he accepted, moving on from there until he found a role for himself he loved.

Asked to describe his PhD thesis in a paragraph, Letwin modestly explained his thinking, adding that only 240 copies of the resulting book had been sold.

On David Blunkett, he expressed much personal fondness, but attacked his recent language on immigration and asylum:

"Blunkett thinks that the BNP is making inroads into natural Labour-voting territory, and he thinks this sort of rhetoric is the way to get that support back. I fear that he only legitimises such rhetoric."

When the audience of about 150 were asked if Oliver should be tougher in his law and order policies, only about half a dozen hands rose. I must admit I probably would feel comfortable if he took that route, but I didn't want to embarrass him in front of the Observer. His thinking is exactly what the party needs: tough punishments are an absolute necessity, but they are not sufficient for a crime-free society.

Andrew Rawnsley asked, sceptically, about his statement that he never wanted to be Prime Minister. Letwin confirmed it, urging Rawnsley to see whether or not he stood for the leadership next time it was up for grabs.

As the interview finished, Andrew Rawnsley reminded him of a lunch the two had had together before the last election. The then Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury expressed a strong belief that however the election went, William Hague would remain leader, offering to bet Rawnsley £1000 that it would occur. Apparently Andrew Rawnsley's hand shot out so fast that Letwin reduced the bet to £100. Noting that Letwin had not yet paid him that £100, he challenged him to a similar bet regarding Iain Duncan Smith becoming Prime Minister. Bravely, Oliver Letwin bet him £1000 that IDS would be Prime Minister, the two shaking on it as the meeting ended.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 11:41 | Permanent Link |

Conservative Party Conference Diary

Tuesday, 8 October (Afternoon and Evening)

DAVID DAVIS' SPEECH was much reported, but little about it stuck out. There were some amusing and good-natured jibes at John Prescott and a very welcome promise that the right to buy would be retained and extended. Both Tuesday and Wednesday, I took a seat in the Conference hall just near to the cameras which filmed the speeches for the screen in the hall. This had the advantage of being almost in the eyeline of every speaker from the central podium as they looked straight ahead. It being rather a vacant spot, I also happened to be almost the sole figure there - it meant that I was particularly visible to all those behind me. I used this to applaud when it was deserved, setting off others.

David Davis is an interesting chap. What I read in the papers last weekend about how Alan Clark's experiences of him says a lot about them both. Apparently in the final edition of Clark's diaries, he sees David Davis walking across a piece of ground between two deadly drops confidently whistling with his hands in his pockets. The last years of Clark's life were apparently devoted in part to working to ensure the leadership for the young man who impressed him so much that day.

The speeches the rest of the morning were not particularly interesting, being as they were about the drab subjects of international development and poverty.

The economy debate in the evening really came alive as contributions from the floor were heard, however. Again and again, red tape and excessive business taxation were condemned. One speaker won much applause by calling for the abolition of taxes on savings and inheritance. The Plato man who had spoken the day before returned, beginning with a personal anecdote:

"I saw Ken Livingstone arrive here earlier and I asked him 'Well, why are you here?' and he said to me 'Because the Conservatives are going to win the next election!".

He then talked about the economy a little, sadly cut off again. Michael Howard is a good speaker, and I enjoyed his speech, but it didn't come close to the brilliance of his dissection of this year's Budget. The hall debates ended at 7:15pm and I went back early to my B&B rather than to any more fringe meetings.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 02:49 | Permanent Link |
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