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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

Friday, January 31, 2003  

Pilger and Mandela - Dumb and Dumber

EXCELLENT COVERAGE FROM Right Wing News on Nelson Mandela's latest absurd and dishonest rant. Just about everyone not on the far-left would be ashamed to speak well of John Pilger. But just about everyone not on the far-right would be afraid to condemn Mandela. Yet just compare their recent statements.

1 - "Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair are undermining past work of the United Nations. They do not care. Is it because the secretary-general of the United Nations is now a black man?"
2 - "Like those in the dock at Nuremberg, [Bush] has no democratic cover."
3 - "Iraq produces 64 percent of the oil in the world. What Bush wants is to get hold of that oil."
4 - "All the world knows their names: Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz, Cheney and Perle, and Powell, the false liberal. Bush's State of the Union speech last night was reminiscent of that other great moment in 1938 when Hitler called his generals together and told them: 'I must have war.' He then had it."
5 - "[I]f there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America."
6 - "The current American elite is the Third Reich of our times, although this distinction ought not to let us forget that they have merely accelerated more than half a century of unrelenting American state terrorism"
7 - "[O]ne power with a president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly, is now wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust."

In fact, the odd numbered quotes were from Mandela. This "great man" seriously believes that Kofi Annan's skin colour could be the deciding factor that ensures Bush and Blair will go to war with Iraq. This apparently doesn't contradict his belief in the absurd "war for oil" conspiracy theory, backed up by fantastically false statistic that the country produces 64% of the world's oil.

Finally, Mandela says that this war would "plunge the world into a holocaust". A sick comparison by any measure. But unbelievably, CNN reports that Mandela is strongly supportive of plunging the world into holocaust so long as the UN authorises it. Even John Pilger at least sticks to his guns that this war is wrong. Mandela is quite happy either to lie about holocausts or support them rather than disagree with the UN.

Now you could be kind and say the man is senile. But if not, then he is either a liar, or morally corrupt by even the most basic sane ethical standards. Whichever one it is, let no one call on Nelson Mandela as a moral authority in the future. ®

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 09:16 | Permanent Link |

If Labour won't reform the Lords, we will - and better

ROBIN COOK MAY resign in anger at Blair's admission that he favours a 100% appointed Upper Chamber at PMQ on Wednesday. No doubt war with Iraq could also encourage the Leader of the Commons to take this decision. This could be quite harmful to the government, so I hope it does happen.

I also hope Blair doesn't properly reform the House of Lords. The Conservatives could do it far better than Labour. I would like a revising chamber that can force the Commons to think again - and again and again, if necessary - but ultimately can never win. This would prevent parliamentary deadlock while giving the House of Lords an important role. As Richard Dawkins has suggested, it would ideally be composed of learned academics and the like, whose ability cannot be denied, but who do not have the democratic legitimacy of MPs. This would ensure the Commons retains its supremacy, while restoring the Lords as a skilled and varied, non-partisan, revising chamber.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 08:17 | Permanent Link |

Slow but steady progress is being made

EXTREMELY ENCOURAGING OPINION POLL RESULTS in today's Telegraph. Labour's lead over the Conservatives has fallen to +4%, and its lead on economic trust is only +1%. On the issues of Europe, Taxation, Law and Order and Asylum and Immigration, the Tories are in the lead, with Labour's lead on Education, Inflation and the NHS in single figures. Only on the currently peripheral issue of Unemployment does the government show a strong lead, and this is likely to change if many jobs are lost and the issue becomes important once again to a lot of people.

Best of all, the numbers approving of the Government's record to date have almost halved since the last election, from 52% to 28%, while the numbers disapproving have risen from 40% to 62%.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 05:58 | Permanent Link |

Thursday, January 30, 2003  

Fate was on England's side

Wallis Simpson, Edward VIII and a close friend

WALLIS SIMPSON, the woman for whom King Edward VIII gave up the throne, was involved in an affair with a Yorkshire car salesman during her relationship with Edward. Special Branch had been watching both the then Prince of Wales and Wallis Simpson, and the release of their files now reveals this affair. Had Edward known, some speculate, the course of history could have been very different, with Edward remaining King until his death, and passing on the throne to his own first son.

This certainly seems a strong possibility. If it is true, then we can all be infinitely glad that Special Branch did keep this affair secret. Had the worthless Edward VIII remained on the throne, he would have deprived this country of the reigns both of his brother and his niece, two truly great monarchs whose devotion to duty could have been topped by no one, least of all him. And all of this can be said against Edward without even beginning to delve into his Nazi sympathies!

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 16:42 | Permanent Link |

Aborting our culture

ABORTION IS AN ISSUE on which minds are extremely hard to change. Quite simply, if you are wilfully ignorant scientifically to the extent that you believe the baby in the womb is not a unique human life, or ideologically committed enough to accept this but believe that ending this life for convenience is somehow still justifiable, then your mind is most likely made up for good. Equally, if do accept the humanity and life of the unborn, and think this confers certain rights, utilitarian and rival rights arguments are going to be equally ineffective, as a right does not need to be justified on grounds of utility, and there can be no right which takes precedence over the right to life.

Mark Steyn perhaps sees this in his own recent piece on the issue, and ignores the traditional focus of the debate, focusing more on what society in general has to lose or gain from legalised abortion. His warnings regarding declining populations are not only deadly accurate, but contrast sharply with the received wisdom that someone's social duty is to have fewer children.

[T]he state needs a birth rate of 2.1 children to maintain a stable population. In Italy, it's now 1.2. Twenty years ago, a million babies were born there each year. Now it's half a million. And the fewer babies you have today, the fewer babies are around to have babies in 20 years. Once you're as far down the death spiral as Italy is, it's hard to reverse. Most European races are going to be out of business in a couple more generations.

If you think that a nation is no more than (in our Booker Prize-winning novelist's famous phrase) a great "hotel," you can always slash rates and fill the empty rooms. But, if you think a nation is the collective, accumulated wisdom of a shared past, then a dependence on immigration alone for population replenishment will leave you lost and diminished. ®

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 09:03 | Permanent Link |

Let Wagner's music be heard

I AM NORMALLY a defender of taboos, seeing them and the traditions they uphold as generally containing an inherited wisdom that people alive today alone cannot match. Those relating to sexual privacy and respect for the dead seem under much attack, but they protect us all, and so they are worth fighting for.

Richard Wagner
In the case of Israel's taboo against the music of Richard Wagner, however, I am pleased to see it finally breaking down, with one conductor having just performed Tristan und Isolde in Jerusalem. Wagner's anti-Semitism is well-known - it was not merely a gutter prejudice, but an obsessive, violent part of the man. But none of this, logically, should detract from the brilliance of his music. If some Israelis want to hear it in concerts, I will be pleased if soon they no longer have to leave the country to do so.

Wagner seems less controversial for his own views on the Jews than for being Adolf Hitler's favourite composer. The trouble is the two men never met, Wagner dying six years before Hitler was born. The idea that Richard Wagner can be held responsible for the actions of a fan long after he has himself died is positively perverse. Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was in fact the Fuhrer's favourite film. Surely we cannot claim that is some sort of stain on Walt Disney, or make a case for banning Disney films in Israel on those grounds.

In a good column, Julian Baggini recently noted the way guilt by association has become a staple method of argument for some, no matter how illogical this might be. This has never been truer or sillier than in cases of associations with the Nazis.

The Nazis were very keen on ecology, compulsory gym classes and keep fit, forests, eugenics and public rallies. If you yourself object to any of these, then slip in a mention of Nazi policy next time you want your criticisms to pack an added rhetorical punch. And if you're being bothered by a vegetarian while you're trying to enjoy your T-bone steak, just remind your critic that Hitler too eschewed meat.

The problem with guilt by association is that it fails to do what any genuine criticism must do: show what is wrong with the thing being criticised. The fact that some bad people like or support it, or that it can be mentioned in the same breath as something bad, does not add up to a criticism.

If anyone can come up with a reason to attack Wagner's music on grounds beyond guilt by association, perhaps this issue should be examined critically once again. But until then, I think the irrational prejudice against it is barely more sensible than the composer's own prejudice against Jews. If we are to condemn Wagner for what he got wrong, let us also recognise what he got right, and admire the music he produced without anyone feeling this entails the making of a political or racial statement of some sort. I hope that before long this can occur in Israel as much as anywhere else.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 08:28 | Permanent Link |

Dead, dead, dead! The UN is dead

IMAGINE ZIMBABWE HOSTING a United Nations conference on ending racism, or Syria holding an international meeting on bringing an end to terrorism, or maybe even the Third Reich playing host to rival nations on the importance of fighting anti-Semitism. Somehow, none of these things would be quite as perversely astonishing as the reality.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 03:55 | Permanent Link |

Wednesday, January 29, 2003  

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 05:34 | Permanent Link |

Affirmative action is just reparations paid in destroyed opportunities

CAPITALISM MAGAZINE ATTACKS Colin Powell, US Secretary of State, for defending racial discrimination against whites if it means more blacks get good college places at their expense. Powell's justification is that a university "exists to educate the public, and if there is any segment of the public that is not adequately represented, then the university as a university is not doing its chartered job for the public". As the writer notes, this is not just racism, but collectivism.

Universities do not exist to educate the "public"—there is no such thing as a collective mind. Universities exist to educate individuals. Each individual differs in character, intelligence and experience, and each individual deserves to be evaluated accordingly. Yet by his statement, Powell does not see the public as a group of individuals, he sees them as racial proxies, representing whatever racial group they may belong to by virtue of their skin. This position is apparently Powell’s antidote to the racism of the past - a new racism of the present.

Yet there is no way around it: Powell’s position itself is racist. If racial prejudice is wrong, the same must be said for racial preference.

... Powell’s position on race in America diminishes the ability of America to communicate to the world (and to its own people) the only antidote to racism that has ever existed. That antidote is the principle of individual rights.

What interests me particularly about reaction to affirmative action is the extent to which it differs from reaction to racial reparations. Almost everyone can see what would be wrong with transferring payments from whites to blacks in the hope of "repaying" the damage done by slavery. Whatever sum was given, it could never really make up for the evils of holding another person captive. But worst of all, it would be the most viciously racist thing to do for any government to impose fines on people for having the same colour skin as many slave-owners and paying it to those with the same colour skin as the slaves. The whole idea of collective punishment and punishment of the families of offenders should have died in the dark ages. To return to it to repay slavery is just madness. Of course, when race is the only deciding factor, all sorts of absurdities show up. Should a mixed race American get half as much as a man 100% black? Can there be a scale of blackness determining how much money a person deserves? Equally, what about those who did most to end slavery? Should the white descendants of US Civil War veterans really have their money transferred to the black descendants of African slave-dealers who sold captives from rival tribes to the Europeans?

Clearly, then, reparations would be wrong, divisive and cruelly racist. But so many of the people who can see this cannot see that the same applies to affirmative action. After all, what is the moral distinction between paying a racial group reparations directly through the tax system, and paying them in the form of college places and employment opportunities, every one of which is granted at the expense of someone who worked hard and earned their position on merit? If you can understand why reparations for slavery are fundamentally unjust, and all but a small sect of extremists can, then you should be able to see why affirmative action is wrong too. Exactly the same moral principles apply - equality before the law, non-discrimination on grounds of race, not punishing (or rewarding) someone for the crimes of their race or ancestors. If you oppose reparations for any principled reason, then logically you must oppose affirmative action and racial quotas too. Why can many not see this? ®

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 05:13 | Permanent Link |

Bush shows the free world the future and smashes the UN for good

WONDERFUL STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS from President Bush just now. It concluded movingly on foreign policy, but the whole speech was very well crafted and convincing. I loved the way he would precede each ideological statement or policy prouncement with six or seven moral and decent sentences with which no one would disagree, leading up suddenly to the point of violent disagreement. As the whole of the rest of the audience would rise at this point, the Democrats were forced to sit on their hands, looking like an odd, grumpy, anti-American clique - and justly.

President Bush making his State of the Union Address, 28 January 2003 He spoke in the clear, moral terms that have become his style, invoking God, justice and freedom throughout. I hope many of those who see Bush as a selfish, gas-guzzling cowboy uninterested in the world at least heard his wise ideas on the environment and on AIDS in Africa.

On terrorism he spoke of the success of the war on terror in the last sixteen months - over 3,000 terrorists arrested or killed. The scale of this achievement perhaps deserved greater emphasis, it really did leave me in awe. That equates to dozens of killers, plotters and lunatics every month deprived of their ability to threaten the lives and peace of decent people.

Regarding Iraq, he drove home again and again that Saddam's threat was real, quoting United Nations and British intelligence conclusions about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. He made clear in advance that he would not - could not - allow the UN to tie his hands given this grave threat. He said he would consult the Security Council on Wednesday, 5 February, but "the course of this nation does not depend on the decisions of others".

It occurred to me the other day that the UN could have enhanced its status immensely by this conflict. It could have demanded its resolutions be enforced, united behind the Atlantic Alliance in its determination that this occur, and shown that it was a force for peace and justice and good in the world. It has done none of these things, and it was ultimately this decision, not Bush's, which has consigned the United Nations to the dustbin of history. The President drove the final nail in its coffin tonight, but it was the organisation's own leading European members who did the killing.

I suspect all that will be left of the UN by the next decade will be African despots and Stalinist thugs remonstrating with euroweenies about slavery and how the West is to blame for everything that goes wrong in the world. Whatever decision the Security Council now takes, no one can believe it made a difference. It will take a miracle to bring the United Nations back from this, and I can't see any miracles on the horizon. Goodbye and good riddance. ®

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 03:28 | Permanent Link |

Tuesday, January 28, 2003  

Let's close down the sink universities

IN ALL THEIR populist and absolutely justified denunciations of Mickey Mouse subjects, the political right often misses a point made well in the Telegraph by Neil Collins: that it is not just the subjects that would be better not existing, but some of the worst universities too. This would improve the education system, and indirectly the economy, in a number of ways. The first paragraph sums up the article succinctly.

There is a simple, if brutal, way to solve the funding crisis in our universities. It is to admit that the worst of them are simply not worth keeping. Not only would closing them free "resources" (the word "money" sounds too vulgar for academe) to give to the survivors, but most of those who would have gone to these sink institutions would get jobs instead, and start paying income tax.

In addition, the lecturers themselves would get jobs and pay income tax, turning a net loss to the Exchequer into a net gain.

Returning to the educational arguments, though, Britain's worst universities exist to the shame of the country's educational system and lower respect for our academic institutions generally. By abolishing the worst of them, everyone with a degree would benefit, the mere fact that one has been to university suddenly meaning something again.

For as long as the universities are run by the state, it is the goverment's duty to allocate the resources available in the most sensible way. At the moment, this is just not happening. There is no need for thousands of people to leave a fourth-rate university with degrees in Golf Course Management and Windsurfing, especially not when it is partly at our expense. The extent to which Britain already has too many people going to university is demonstrated by the fact that around one-fifth of graduates are in jobs which do not require degrees. Now there is nothing wrong with being overqualified for a post, but when it comes to 20% of the total, and at the taxpayer's expense, and the subject being so pointless as to be of no benefit at all - when all these conditions are met, then radical changes are needed. Neil Collins proposes a course of action that would be unpopular among the vocal minority, but would do the silent majority a power of good. ®

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 05:48 | Permanent Link |

Poodles to the UN

RIGHT-WING NEWS points to a great comic strip-creating tool, which is completely free and a lot of fun. Here's my first effort. It's not the greatest joke you'll ever see but I thought it worth a shot. ®

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 03:08 | Permanent Link |

Monday, January 27, 2003  

Bush must go through with it, so let it happen soon

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER'S COLUMN explains in military and moral terms what we already know to be a political reality: President Bush cannot possibly turn back now. If Saddam Hussein will continue to pose a threat to the security of free nations - and the choice is still his - then that threat must be ended by force by the United States military.

The president cannot logically turn back. He says repeatedly, and rightly, that inspectors can only verify a voluntary disarmament. They are utterly powerless to force disarmament on a regime that lies, cheats and hides. And having said, again correctly, that the possession of weapons of mass destruction by Saddam is an intolerable threat to the security of the United States, there is no logical way to rationalize walking away from Iraq - even if the president wanted to.

After the liberation of Afghanistan, the United States made disarming Iraq the paramount American security objective in the post-9/11 world. To now pass off Iraq to hapless Hans for "containment" 1990s-style would shatter the credibility of post-9/11 American resolve that was achieved by the demonstration of American power and will in Afghanistan.

Credibility matters deeply in a world of enemies--and of fence-sitters who must decide which side to choose. Particularly after the collapse of our position on North Korea, which can only be explained away as a temporary necessity while we gird ourselves for Iraq, the entire Bush Doctrine, which sees the conjunction of rogue states, terrorists and weapons of mass destruction as the great existential challenge of our age, would collapse. You cannot march up this hill then march back down empty-handed without undermining American deterrence everywhere.

In conclusion, Krauthammer notes that given this reality and the clear opposition of the United Nations, there is nothing to be gained by any further delay.

The country is in malaise, a combination of economic slowdown and psychic apprehension, a state of phony-war suspension as we await the inevitable conflict.

The window of legitimacy having closed, delay has no upside. There will be no talking our way out of the opposition of France, Germany and the others. The only tonic for that opposition will be an American victory that changes the landscape of the region.®

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 06:42 | Permanent Link |

Unionism's opportunity to secure itself, perhaps for good

OVER AT ELECTRIC REVIEW, The Watchman surveys the challenge for Ulster Unionism. Despite Catholic birthrates continually greater than those of Protestants, they now seem to have tailed off. The widespread fear of an approaching Catholic majority who would vote for a United Ireland suddenly seems unjustified. Add to that the fact that around one-third of Ulster Catholics now want to remain British, and one sees that nationalism's demographic failure presents unionism with an opportunity to secure itself firmly by seizing lots of those Catholic votes. Given this, the continuing ascent of Ian Paisley is a real threat. He must not become the leading representative of unionism in Ulster, for it appears
Ian Paisley - not the unionist leader to win over Catholics
opposition to a united Ireland just cannot long survive if it becomes a Prods-only club. If ensuring Paisley's failure means David Trimble playing the sort of hardball with the IRA that should have been played years ago, then all the better.

A further thought is that major factor in ensuring Catholic votes could be the occasionally discussed reunion of the Ulster Unionist and Conservative parties. This would serve peace in Ulster and the unity of the UK immensely by beginning the extension of red vs. blue politics to the province. More to the point, it would present Catholics with a non-sectarian force for the union, indeed one now lead by a Catholic.

The article's title asks if Northern Ireland's future can be bright and orange. Given the right moves, I believe it can. But to make them requires courage and a hard-headed assessment of the political realities from a lot of people. I hope unionists in Ulster and on the mainland are up to it. ®

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 06:00 | Permanent Link |

The real meaning of life

I ENJOY READING reviews of certain things, even if I don't always read the book or see the film in question. So although I have no plans to see the film "The Hours", I was very impressed with Rod Dreher's review, and loved the insight it showed. Not content with mere condemnation of the movie's moral message - that if you feel unhappy in your home life, you only duty is to yourself and to up and leave at once - Dreher demonstrates real wisdom in explaining why the film's promoted worldview is so shallow, so small.

It's superficial to think that happiness comes easy; some people have everything, and yet are still estranged from themselves. It's even more superficial, though, to think the point of life is to find personal happiness. Most people outgrow that egotistical worldview after their teenage years, and come to understand that the task is to live a meaningful life, if not a happy one. A meaningful life is to be found in love, in living nobly and selflessly in the service of something or someone greater than oneself: God, family, friends, country, humanity, or some combination thereof.

One sees much that seems paradoxical and harsh in these words, but ultimately we know them to be true. As was suggested, I recognise this view particularly in people of their teenage years. Many between fifteen and twenty-five seem to believe passionately that there is some great profundity to self-obsession and their own pointless posturings. I passed my old sixth form college the other week, and what I saw was symptomatic of such adolescent narcissism. Within the space of a year, what would once have been called "weirdos" had apparently become the majority. I suppose the crowds were a self-selecting sample, as people of that sort would tend to be friends and so to crowd around together, but I saw girls with flourescent dyed hair, boys with long hair and of the rest not one person who wasn't dressed like a Hell's Angel, a new-age type gypsy, Keith Prodigy or some such absurd sight. Asked to explain the deep philosophical purpose behind looking so ridiculous, they would no doubt say that the bafflement of people such as myself is proof of the subversive effectiveness of looking different. But that they feel the need to stand out for the sake of standing out is equal testament to their own empty vanities and self-centred perspective.

Equally, one sees a truth in Dreher's words that shatters the ideals of left-liberals and libertine, small-state rightists alike. For just as leftist utopianism now seems to consist largely of viewing instant gratification and risk-free, loveless sex as the ultimate purpose of existence, some right wingers equally see the notion of a greater moral authority than themselves, a greater purpose than themselves, as an imposition as wicked as big government. You see this in its purest form in the twisted "philosophy" of Ayn Rand, and in some vacuous libertarians. Both are wrong, and both miss the larger point, the greater purpose of life and existence.

Few conservatives any longer see the imposition of such a worldview through the state either as proper or effective. Let the state run and control as little as possible is now an instinct at the Tory core. But viewing the state as a poor protector and inculcator of such values is not to deny their truth, and we should never forget that. Conservatism that ignores altogether this perspective of life's meaning and significance is almost as dark and empty a system of thought as politically correct liberalism. ®

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 04:32 | Permanent Link |
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