Saturday, January 11, 2003
Give peace a chance, because I'll consider no other option
IAIN MURRAY AND a number of others often keenly point out that although Rowan Williams may be very much a liberal sort of Christian, with views and ideas that some will not like, he is a very clever, devoted believer. But every time I try to give the Archbishop the benefit of the doubt, or at least credit him as a skilled theologian, he says something else outrageously silly or plainly unbiblical. Reading some of the text of last July's "Christian declaration", I see still further examples of his naivety and willingness to assert God's word where it was not spoken (despite ignoring it in many areas where it was).
It is deplorable that the world’s most powerful nations continue to regard war and the threat of war as an acceptable instrument of foreign policy, in violation of the ethos of both the United Nations and Christian moral teaching.
Nothing extraordinary if you are a student radical, certainly. But for anyone who claims special insight into the world, this is the most appalling nonsense to put one's name to. Firstly, because neither the UN nor Christian moral teachings rule out pre-emptive military action in self-defence. Secondly, because without the threat of force, a country's foreign policy is bloodily castrated. Unless one can ultimately threaten war when unreasonable and dangerous dictators are trying to worm their way out of agreement to what is reasonable, then diplomacy is not really possible. Aneurin Bevan understood this decades ago, witheringly attacking nuclear disarmers for wanting to send their Foreign Secretary "naked into the conference chamber". Without the option of force, what do you have to threaten them with, to cajole them with? With peace the only option, where's the carrot and where's the stick?
Of course war should not be taken lightly, but not to have it as a last resort is to leave no way open but talk to get one's way - no method of persuasion at all beyond an appeal to the goodwill of one's enemies. You cannot force negotiation and compromise without the distant or not so distant threat of something worse. Jonah Goldberg has dealt with the futility and immorality of such a standpoint at length, destroying it brilliantly.
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.
Rowan Williams seems to live not in the real world, but a dream world where good intentions are sufficient to secure peace. Those willing to acknowledge the dangers of great evils in the world, and to admit that they must sometimes be opposed, are the only ones in the end who can ensure it. From pacifists who think kindness is enough to appeasers always willing to make more concessions, the evil prey on the weak, on those without the means or the will to stand up to them. The only way to reign aggressors in and keep the world a safer place is to threaten the use of force should they take certain actions that will only make much harder the hopes all decent people share of peace and security. By throwing away the threat of war as "an instrument of foreign policy", we would ensure this option did not even exist. All we could do is talk to them and whine at them and hope for the best. No wonder the world is so dangerous when this is advanced as a credible way to conduct foreign policy. Thank God the free world has leaders willing to make the effort to sort out some of the damage done to the security of us all by such attitudes. ®Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 17:37 | Permanent Link |
An inquiry into the nature and causes of a largely blameless tragedy
LIKE TOM UTLEY, I find it difficult to side with Ted Heath on anything, but I share his sympathy for the predicament of Thatcher's old foe. In being forced to attend the 'Bloody Sunday' tribunal, basically to answer the ridiculous charge that he ordered mass murder on 30 January 1972, the 86 year old must now face questions on the matter from the best barristers in the country.
In principle, of course, this might be justifiable if the circumstances warranted it. But that is certainly not the case as far as this tribunal is concerned. The tragic events of 'Bloody Sunday' were already investigated in great detail by the then Lord Chief Justice of England, Lord Widgery. As Utley notes, his report was rightly condemning of where things clearly went awry and far from a cover up.
There has already been one official inquiry, conducted by Lord Widgery in 1972, when the evidence was much fresher in everybody's minds.
But because the Widgery Report stopped short of accusing the brave men of Britain's Parachute Regiment of murder for the simple reason that it is untrue, the IRA will never be satisfied. That is why a new inquiry was held, broadly equivalent to holding a second murder trial three decades after the defendant was acquited.
Mr Blair called the Saville Inquiry for one purpose only. It was a part of his package of measures, including the release of convicted terrorists and the winding up of the RUC, designed to suck up to the IRA. It is a fantastically expensive piece of theatre, which has already cost well over £100 million and may cost twice that much by the time it is done, which has no point but to give the IRA a forum in which to air its wilder conspiracy theories about the wickedness of the British.
We also must ask what will happen if the Saville Inquiry comes to the same conclusion as Widgery. Will a third inquest take place? We already see that an Irish referendum on European integration or a united Ireland seems to involve asking the same question over and over until the voters give the answer that suits the political establishment. Will an Irish inquiry now involve the same conditions? Will there be more and more questioning of the same turgid historical facts until finally an answer is given that matches the nationalist myth - that an exaggerated response to IRA gunshots and a violent, illegal demonstration and riot was really an event where terrorists were nowhere to be seen and mass murder was planned days in advance?
In some ways, this form of appeasement is worse than others, for it neither permits the aggressor guns nor land, but instead grants them moral credibility. None deserve it less than a terrorist group that has for thirty years bombed hundreds of shoppers, shot as many soldiers, kneecapped fathers, orphaned children and blown up babies.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 11:44 | Permanent Link |
Our Liberal Elite
"If someone is carrying a weapon that could potentially kill someone, then I think the proper punishment for that crime is imprisonment. But if someone is committing a burglary, although that is a serious event for the victim of the burglary, and I don't underestimate that, for the person who has committed the crime and if it's their first crime, I don't think prison is the answer."
This is already turning into British law, of course, but it's still startling to see it expressed so starkly. Just consider this - in a few months time, a burglar who breaks into some poor farmer's home and finds him wealding a handgun to defend his family would be sensible in calling the police. They will both be arrested, but though the burglar will only get a few hundred hours community service, the farmer will be jailed for a minimum of five years. A better example of the backward, stupid, out of touch arrogance of this government I cannot imagine. ®Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 02:39 | Permanent Link |
Friday, January 10, 2003
Peaceniks aim for a Darwin Award
JONAH GOLDBERG'S SYNDICATED COLUMN today deals with the phenomenon of human shields - people so opposed to the Second Gulf War that they are willing to stand beside the most obvious military targets in Iraq, hoping either to deter attacks on them or by their deaths to diminish support for the war back at home. Jonah pays generous tribute to their courage, but I don't feel so charitable. The only thing I think these idiots deserve is a Darwin Award, and I do hope they are considered for one. Anyway, even if you accept what they are doing and that a war on Iraq would be unjustified aggression, it is very difficult to explain just why you only try it on your own country - why your own people deserve it most.
Every day, various regimes around the globe carry out horrible acts of aggression. But, with a very few exceptions, the international peace movement seems uniquely concerned about what it perceives to be unwarranted aggression by the United States, Israel and Europe -in that order.
After all this brutality, the reason supposed peace campaigners only do this to their own country is proof in itself of the superior systems of the free world.
[T]hey know that the United States (and Israel and the West generally) has a conscience, and they take advantage of that fact. Saddam Hussein, China and the Red Armies of the former Soviet Union would gladly roll their tanks over the screaming bodies of peace activists to achieve their goals.
Harsh as it sounds, we must be equally unwavering in our own military plans. If ever we give in to this blackmail, our war efforts will be hampered beyond measure for at least a generation, with every lunatic with some reason to oppose a war knowing the perfect way to cause trouble. In a very real sense, the methods of these people are a form of terrorism. It is certainly the selfless terrorism of the hunger striker, of sacrificing oneself rather than others, but it is the use of violence against civilians to achieve a political end, nonetheless. And as all recent history has proved, appeasing terror will never bring peace. If these people want to throw away their lives, so be it. But we must never let them sway us, and refuse to allow the well of political debate to be poisoned by their emotional blackmail.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 12:39 | Permanent Link |
I AM DEEPLY CONCERNED by government proposals to alter radically the GCSE science syllabus, replacing physics, chemistry and biology with what the Independent calls a "new 'core curriculum' focusing on contemporary topics such as cloning, genetically modified food and diet". Apart from mathematics, science is the only subject basically untouched by politicised social issues and PC ideals. There is work on the environment in which the car causing the greenhouse effect is taught as fact, but apart from that, the syllabus is composed of objective facts that improve pupils' understanding of the world. It would take a lot to convince me that this should change.
If I may go back a few years to my own GCSEs, I found political content in almost every subject. In English, we covered as much "multi-cultural" poetry of widely varying quality - about continuing unofficial South African apartheid and Pakistani traditions - as poetry written by British writers. In History, the focus was not on the great leaders, causes and battles that built the modern world, but on the peasant who - until the welfare state saved him - had to get up at 5am to eat a slug-infested loaf of bread that had to last a month. In Geography, the focus is as much on the rights and wrongs of free trade as on nearby and distant countries and their capital cities. Even in German, we covered the various ways to help the environment, a pretty obscure area of study to say the least.
None of these things prevented a good education, but they do get in the way of education being about the transmission and learning of objective facts. Once contemporary controversies enter the field, the subject is not just dumbed down, but one loses the absolute confidence that one's strict knowledge as opposed to one's viewpoints are being evaluated.
The constant pressure to popularise science is so unnecessary, as good science in its traditional form is a quite wonderful and awe-inspiring thing. Perhaps the curriculum is a little too practical and everyday, focusing too little on the amazing facts of evolution or the fantastic distances between stars, and too much on the name for every single part of a plant. But in a sense, this is a problem of science already dumbed-down to the level of being easy enough, but uninspiring. It will hardly help to increase interest to extend this process further.
Discussing politically challenging concepts has its place, but that place is not the science classroom. I cannot help but see a certain parallel with the American Creationists whose intrusions into science lessons have earned them the accolade of being viewed by "progressives" here almost as the equivalents of the Taliban. Is this plan to bring political controversy into the British classroom today all that different? In the UK as much as the US, objective truth should come first in science lessons. ®Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 11:50 | Permanent Link |
Tuesday, January 07, 2003
Monbiot's medicine delayed again
WHEN HE SUGGESTED that the Pope's support for the family implied he was a homosexual, some were concerned. When he said last week that living standards had been going downhill since 1974, we were all greatly worried. It is now my sad duty to make it official: George Monbiot has flipped.
[I]f Blair had told us that we had to go to war to stop Saruman of Isengard from sending his orcs against the good people of Rohan, it would scarcely seem less plausible than the threat of Saddam of Iraq dropping bombs on America.
His rarely mentioned solutions to the problems he describes are as ridiculous and overblown as ever.
CND and the Stop the War Coalition have suggested an hour's stoppage on the day after the war begins. Many activists are now talking about building on this, and seeking to provoke wider strike action - even a general strike.
Of course, the problem with this is that the British people are pretty indifferent to politics and industrial action at the best of times. Why would Britain's ununionised millions forgo their pay packets for the sake of Saddam?
If we call for a strike and almost everyone goes to work, Blair will see this as a sign that he can do as he pleases.
Please, let it happen.
According to the latest opinion poll, some 42% of British people - as against the 38% who support it - want to stop this war.
A lead of four whole per cent! And notice the one in five with no view at all. Hardly the pacifist fanatics Monbiot seeks in his campaign to cause "peaceful, well-focused and widespread nuisance, even if it irritates other members of the public".
If we cannot mobilise the workforce, there are still plenty of means of concentrating politicians' minds. We could, for example, consider blocking the roads down which Blair and his key ministers must travel to meet their appointments, disrupting the speeches they make and blockading the most important public buildings.
Then you will fail. It could even be that Blair and the leftist cranks will both lose this one, if Tam Dalyell's prediction of a "bonfire of Labour membership cards" when war begins proves accurate. Let's wait and see how long Blair can flirt with common sense without earning the unforgiving, unrelenting fury of his own party. Things look good for patriotic Tories either way.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 15:00 | Permanent Link |
Conservative Leader "backs" Page for London
PETERBOROUGH TODAY REPORTS that the Tory race to fight Ken Livingstone for the job of London Mayor in 2004 is hotting up, with Iain Duncan Smith privately lining up behind Nikki Page, the former catwalk model and assistant to John Redwood. I certainly think this is a sensible choice. Her rival, Steve "Shagger" Norris, was barely above Archer in terms of personal probity last time, and has since become a leading critic of most of the Conservative Party and what it used to stand for. Is it really sensible to have as candidate for Mayor a man who had five extra-marital affairs, who refused to rule out leaving the Conservative Party if IDS became leader and who responded to his election by describing him as "on probation"? Steve Norris would be immensely divisive, especially if elected, with his every triumph used as a stick with which to beat social conservatives within the party and his every failure used by the socially conservative wing to beat the rest. Nikki Page is a younger, more interesting and populist style of candidate, and one all Tories can unite behind. I wish her well. ®Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 08:45 | Permanent Link |
The more taxes you pay, the more tax cuts will help you
AS PRESIDENT BUSH plans to stimulate the US economy by lowering taxation again, Sean Hannity read out on his show this evening a great little allegory which shows the absurdity of those who condemn tax cuts for benefitting the rich and oppose them on those grounds. If the wealthy pay the most taxes, then they will obviously get more of their own money back when taxes are reduced.
Suppose that every day 10 men go to dinner. The bill for all ten comes to $100.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 02:57 | Permanent Link |
Monday, January 06, 2003
A terrible tribute
WHEN ENOCH POWELL DIED in 1998, I don't recall anyone ending immigration as a tribute to his legacy. When Barbara Castle died last year, I don't remember a return to punitive taxation to repay her efforts in life. So as the Telegraph, Guardian, Sun, Independent and the rest write their obituaries to Lord Jenkins, I find it difficult to understand the argument now proposed that we should now implement Woy's undemocratic plan to rig the voting system in a way that would have allowed the Liberal leader to pick every Prime Minister since the war.
Proportional representation is fundamentally about the voters affecting the size of the parties but the politicians choosing who governs. Unless you have an electoral system that can deliver a decisive majority to one or other party, coalitions are the inevitable, unpalatable result. Those PR systems that don't also break the link with the constituency instead give you many MPs per seat, allowing any one member to shift his workload and creating much confusion. PR would certainly in practice mean more extremists in parliament, with further opportunities for the BNP, the Socialist Alliance and Greens to get their voice heard on the national stage. Would the Islington liberals who tend to favour electoral reform really be willing to see Nick Griffin as an MP for Burnley or Oldham, using PMQ as a platform to get across his ideas?
Roy Jenkins' own proposed system not only favoured the Lib Dems at both stages - a rigged electoral system giving the party what the voters would not - but it had all sorts of oddities, like allowing the supporters of fringe candidates to vote twice. And the fewer votes your fringe candidate won, the more choice you get of other candidates in your second vote and the more chance you have of being able to vote twice.
The most that can be said against first past the post is that it is unfair that some parties do better in proportion to their votes than others. But all this means is that the candidate with the most votes wins. That is tranparently fair in a way that changing the system to prevent this from always happening can never be. First past the post has served this country well, and changing it to the system which - in its weakness - failed Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, helping the Nazis no end, would be a dangerous and stupid step to take.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 19:52 | Permanent Link |
Labour lead drops to 5% and The Times says it's a Tory disaster
If you take the risk, you should be responsible for the consequences
EVERY FEW MONTHS, it now seems some street or other is flooded and the people inside driven out of their homes. It is a terrible sight, and one that inspires pity at once. In the Independent, Stephen Pollard tackles an issue little reported on - who pays for the damage done. His conclusion is straight-forward and convincing: those who choose to live near a river should know they are taking a risk. Insurance is there to offer financial protection from such disasters. Indeed, house prices are doubtless cheaper in such places because of the risk. If one doesn't have insurance to deal with it, then the taxpayer does not have a duty to cough up:
I don't hear cancer sufferers demanding that the rest of us compensate them for their loss of earnings while they are ill.
For some reason, perhaps just natural sympathy for those whose lives have been turned upside-down by this disaster, a part of me is very keen to find fault with Stephen Pollard's analysis. But I can't. A freely chosen risk is one that can work in your favour or against you. The taxpayer doesn't benefit if someone buys a lovely house by the river and lives in it without difficulty for decades on end, so it just isn't right that the taxpayer should suffer in the cases where the houses instead are flooded. When someone opts to take a risk, he should gain all the rewards himself, but endure all the hardships himself, too.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 00:42 | Permanent Link |
Sunday, January 05, 2003
Only the crooks gain from gun control
MARK STEYN TAKES another bite at the issue of gun control in today's Telegraph, noting the condractions, blind stupidity and monstrous injustices at the heart of Britain's damaging attitude to gun ownership and self-defence by the honest citizen:
Since the Government's "total ban" five years ago, there are more and more guns being used by more and more criminals in more and more crimes. Now, in the wake of Birmingham's New Year bloodbath, there are calls for the total ban to be made even more total: if the gangs refuse to obey the existing laws, we'll just pass more laws for them not to obey. According to a UN survey from last month, England and Wales now have the highest crime rate of the world's 20 leading nations. One can query the methodology of the survey while still recognising the peculiar genius by which British crime policy has wound up with every indicator going haywire - draconian gun control plus vastly increased gun violence plus stratospheric property crime...Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 23:51 | Permanent Link |
Another miracle cure merchant offering nothing that worksPosted by Peter Cuthbertson | 23:15 | Permanent Link |
AS JOHN BERCOW writes off any chance of Labour losing the next election, I am forced to wonder where this genius gets his intimate knowledge of the British people from. How does he manage so effortlessly to work out exactly how to get the Tories back to power, something that has eluded so many for so long? If only the Tories listened to him, we would be home. And what does he recommend? Blairism. That's it - that's the strategy. A social agenda lifted from the pages of the Guardian plus an economic agenda much to the left of Ken Clarke's. His approach can't even be called libertarian, because however soft he may be on drugs, he certainly wouldn't go near libertarian issues like gun ownership, tax cuts and letting people work at wages below the state-approved minimum.
I've never understood how someone who saw how pointless it proved electorally for William Hague to chase good headlines in the Sun and Daily Mail (combined circulation 5.96 million) can believe Iain Duncan Smith will do any better chasing good headlines in The Guardian and Independent (combined circulation 0.63 million). Nor can I see why Bercow thinks that people will vote for a Tory imitation of Blairism when they can have the real thing. If things go well and people are happy, they will keep voting Labour. If things don't, they will want something noticeably different. A straight copy won't please either group.
It is time everyone in the Conservative Party accepted that there are no easy answers to the current Tory plight, and pulled together in fighting this government, whose failure will come sooner rather than later, presenting us with the necessary opportunities. This country needs a coherent, united opposition that offers a forward-looking, radical and conservative alternative to Blairism. All Tories must work for that, ignoring the sniping of the Heseltines and Bercows, whose magical panaceas will only increase our problems and aid Labour and the Liberals no end.
Gun control, not gun culture, is the real problem
I DON'T BLAME gun control for the recent shootings and murders in the UK, but it makes me so angry to see it proposed as any sort of solution. Criminalising self-defence and gun ownership is a huge cause of crime, not a way of halting it. These events have proved only how impotent anti-gun laws are. It is absolutely typical of this government that it reponds immediately to these tragedies by aiming to give even longer sentences to anyone caught with a firearm, however innocent his purpose.
The Guardian asked on its talkboards how we could aim to put the brakes on Britain's gun culture. I responded first, calling for a more mature debate on guns. The first two Guardianistas to reply to me apparently took this call very seriously, and their thoughtful, non-hysterical answers are included below.
ToryCommentatorPosted by Peter Cuthbertson | 21:50 | Permanent Link |
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