Saturday, February 15, 2003
Million Moron March across London
YOU SEE THE quote at the top of the page? Saddam must think his prayers have been answered, as over a million march across London, Iraqi flags in hand, to protest the liberation of 23 million Iraqi people and the destruction of the weapons with which Saddam hopes to threaten us all.
When Louis Farrakhan's sick little demonstration drew around 800,000 people, it was deemed a Million Man March. Well this demonstration does seem to have drawn around a million people, and this truly is a Million Moron March. These people either don't understand the threat Saddam poses, don't care, or rejoice in his evil. There will surely have been large chunks of all three on London's streets today. But history will soon be on the wrong side of all three. As Mark Steyn made clear in the Telegraph today, urging that his readers not go on the march, the people of a soon to be free Iraq will loathe and despise those who marched in favour of their continued persecution.
I was in Montreal last week, which has the largest Iraqi population in North America. I've yet to meet one who isn't waiting eagerly for the day the liberation of their homeland begins. Then they can go back to the surviving members of their families and not have to live in a country where it's winter 10 months of the year.
The people who march against this war today are not being brave, or compassionate or caring. They are fighting for a world in which conflict can only begin at the whim of the terrorist, in which fighting to prevent a disaster on the scale of 9/11 is worse than allowing the disaster to occur, and in which the selfless efforts to protect the world by its leading superpower are shunned and attacked until the point at which America leaves Europe to her fate. If anyone really wants to live in such a world, move to France or Germany, both of whom seem determined to build one, but don't march for its madness here. ®
A step in the right direction, though not in the right country
THERE'S NO POINT pretending the French get everything wrong. Although they may sacrifice the safety of the world in their selfish quest to weaken the power of the Atlantic Alliance, their efforts at home are sometimes in the right direction. Their new crime bill is for the most part exactly the sort of thing we should introduce here. Some of the positive provisions include crackdowns on prostitutes, aggressive beggars, teenage louts who loiter in apartment doorways and those who threaten state employees.
Complained one whore as the bill was voted through parliament: "They are trying to make us out to be delinquents, even criminals." Yeees, that is indeed the very point of the bill, and there's no making anything out - it's a fact. I just hope she has looks.
But then I think you really have to be French yourself to fathom the way they operate. ®Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 03:15 | Permanent Link |
Friday, February 14, 2003
Permissive liberalism a victim of the war on terror? We can only hope
AS THE BRAVE passengers of the plane destined for the White House on 9/11 realised their fate, they did all they could to take over the plane, in the end bringing it down over Pennsylvania. As the following year began the President reflected on what they said as they began the fight back: "let's roll".
For too long, our culture has said: 'If it feels good, do it.' Now America is embracing a new ethic and a new creed: 'Let's roll.'
Unsurprisingly, a lot of people think 'If it feels good, do it' is a pretty good way to live ones life, and they are none too happy at this transformation, which shows every sign of extending beyond the United States. Guardianista Jackie Ashley is one of them.
The potential victims of the war on terrorism are easy to imagine, impossible to number... But we should add one more potential victim: progressive, liberal politics itself.
I certainly hope so. We've had an age of trivial, pitiful self-gratification for nearly four decades, and whatever reversal of socialism we may have achieved in the 1980s, 'If it feels good, do it' is still the only guiding principle of millions. If it takes the terrorist murders of the present for people to come to their senses and see how shallow is the liberal vision of a life of consequence-free sex in youth and welfarist "care" in old, then it's a sad reflection on how bad things have got. But it does give us hope for a better future in decades to come.
History has shown again and again that there is nothing inevitable about moral permissiveness. There is a fascinating moment in Robert Graves' I, Claudius, where the aged Livia, wife of Augustus and mother of Tiberius, debates with Claudius the merits of Republicanism. She tells him that a global empire can no longer go back to the government it had in its days as a city state than the chaste and decent morals of those times can be expected in any civilised country of the future. How wrong she was, as countless historical periods since have shown. We may not be able to turn back the clock, but we can help it move forward to a better future. If it takes Bin Laden and Al-Qaida to induce the will to do so in us, as it took Hitler and the Third Reich to bring out the best in those who came of age in the thirties and forties, then it won't only be Iraq and Afghanistan who could emerge from this conflict immeasurably better off. ®Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 23:08 | Permanent Link |
Canada's finest on the world, politics, war and terror
FANTASTIC MARK STEYN INTERVIEW from Right Wing News this week. I'd quote some of it, but the whole thing is just marvellous, so I wouldn't know which bits to pick. From Britain's Tories to the Middle East countries we need to stop trusting, Steyn is extremely well informed and thoughtful in his judgements. If you haven't read the interview already, check it out now. ®Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 08:57 | Permanent Link |
Tobacco advertising and a mountain of inconsistencies
WITH THE BAN ON TOBACCO ADVERTISING finally in force (except in industries whose leading figures are big donors to the Labour Party, naturally) I wonder what will be next. As Simon Heffer said yesterday, alcohol does huge damage to the liver, burger bars encourage obesity and fast sports cars promote reckless driving. That covers a large majority of advertised products right off, but somehow I doubt they will face such harsh rules. So why tobacco?
The fear seems to be that advertising smoking encourages young people to take up the habit, viewing it is as 'cool' and rebellious. I don't know why they think this impression is gained from tobacco advertising, usually very plain stuff included in the stalest of magazines. Far more likely it is encouraged by anti-smoking efforts like this, which only encourage the notion that by using tobacco one is doing something mean and anti-social. Political correctness be damned, smoking is cool, and being able to handle cigarette smoke is a sign of physical maturity. For girls in particular, cigarettes can be a real aid to elegance, as proved by Marilyn Monroe and the like. The more that people at the top deny this obvious truth, the more incitement there is among the young to earn their disapproval. I think a large measure of indifference to smoking from the authorities would do far more good.
No one in elite circles will accept the notion of moral guidance in lessons educating schoolchildren about drugs or sex, and certainly will not countenance suggesting simply that the kids say "no". But when it comes to cigarettes, ultimately an issue of far fewer moral, social and health concerns, "no" is the only answer even suggested. Interesting, isn't it?Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 08:14 | Permanent Link |
Thursday, February 13, 2003
Road congestion regulates itself – charges just aren’t needed
BORIS JOHNSON CONDEMNS the new congestion charge, set to be introduced in London this Monday, charging motorists £5 to drive in the centre of our capital. Boris points out that as with many such bureaucratic ideas, it’s neither necessary nor fair, road congestion itself being both the problem and the solution.
[I]t doesn’t necessarily follow that it is the business of government to seek to control the right to drive until the point at which motorists and available road space are in approximate equilibrium. There is already a perfectly good mechanism for ensuring that this is the case. It is called congestion.
Regarding the “total gridlock” point, it is also worth pointing out how silly are similar fantasies of petrol one day running out and rendering all the millions of cars everyone then has useless. As the supply of any quantity falls relative to demand, the price rises to stave off the excess demand. So as oil becomes more rare, the cost will increase, and fewer will choose to travel by car, choosing alternatives that become more economic with every rise in the oil price. Individual responses to the price mechanism ensure that oil will essentially never run out, just as individual responses to congestion ensures there will never be the dreaded “total gridlock”. Britain has many real and existing transport problems, but we don’t help solve them in any way by worrying about transport problems that do not exist. ®Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 14:55 | Permanent Link |
Is an international authority necessary?
I’VE HAD TWO REPLIES thus far to my challenge to anyone to explain why people should put their trust in the United Nations, why its decisions should be supported whether or not it sanctions war. Both are included in full below this post, and thanks to both of those who made the effort.
In some ways, both made very similar points: that moral authority or not, the world needs some sort of international body to determine the rights and wrongs of certain actions. As Matthew Baines put it:
The United Nations is not about the rights or wrongs of a war, it is about what serves to protect our world order in the best way.
I think the best justification of the pro-UN position came again from Matthew Baines (Jaakko Haapasalo was broadly in agreement with me) when he said that the UN was like a government that kept the individual nations in line the way a national government keeps individual people in line.
It is rather like Rousseau's principles of society: it being impossible for all the people in a society to run a society all at once, we must make a social contract with the elected leader. With that leader we entrust the running of our society for the better of its people. This is the principle by which we elect our Prime Minister. Equally, on a larger scale, it is impossible for all the Prime Ministers of the world to run the world as we would otherwise be running in all directions and starting wars all over the place.
If I might rephrase this argument into a form that I find most convincing, just as we need a government and courts to determine the way the law should apply between individuals, we need the United Nations and its Security Council to determine how international law should apply between nations. This is not to say that national governments are made up of superior beings of greater moral integrity or that the government’s own sanction can make any act morally right. But it is to say that society has agreed to respect the decisions taken by this authority.
So just as a national governments might create laws that are unjust and unfair, the UN might make mistakes in its decisions. But that is not to say we should disobey the UN, just as we would hopefully not break the law any time we disagreed with it. Instead, we would hopefully work from inside that institution to change its decisions.
This is all very well, and I think it is a coherent and original outlook that isn’t really proposed properly in any defences of the United Nations. However, it is all based in theory, and the difficulties come when one sees the effect in practice.
Just as you can have a bad system of national governments, with proportional representation or elective dictatorships, you can have bad systems of international governments. This could mean that the worst elements of society can take over, the elements that kill and rape and steal relentlessly. The UN, by any measure, is slowly being dominated by this latter kind. With its leading commissions on human rights and disarmament headed by the greatest offenders against these principles, the UN does not so much resemble a democratically elected government as a military kleptocracy.
And this is the problem. We accept the legitimacy of democratically elected governments because they are put there by the largest number of voters. Matthew Baines puts it thus:
We (the UK) elected Tony Blair to be our Prime Minister and we trust him to do everything that is right for this country. We might not agree with some things he does, but the Social Contract we have with his Government is such that we entrust him to do the right thing. I don't believe he should take our country to war, but if he decides to do that as my Prime Minister, I can only conclude that he did it because he thinks it is the right thing to do. The same principle applies to the United Nations.
Except the same doesn’t apply to the United Nations. The whole basis for the Prime Minister’s legitimacy is that he was put there as an elected ruler. The United Nations was not elected by anybody, and there are members of its Security Council who weren’t even elected to their role as heads of government.
The sort of world government proposed by Matthew Baines, in which key foreign policy questions were taken out of the hands of national governments, could not be justified except by election. That the controlling force of national governments is elected is not beside the point, but the very point.
The structural problems are equally great. Baines sees the UN’s role as “keeping a check on the unilateralists”. This is a notion I have real trouble with. For a start, “uni” means “one”. It’s a very simple concept, but by goodness it seems to foil so many anti-war commentators. Currently over forty countries support the United States over Iraq, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Spain, Poland and Italy. Bearing in mind that there are fewer than 200 countries in the whole world, this is particularly interesting. Set all this support against the prospect of a French veto. If the French took the decision alone to veto military action, that would be unilateralism, but quite within the rules of the UN, which by its vetoing powers encourages unilateral approaches. Just imagine if a national government’s cabinet could “unilaterally” veto any of the government decisions.
Fundamentally, the UN as an institution and in terms of its members, then, cannot live up to the Roussauean standards Baines sets it. It draws its claimed legitimacy from nowhere, and operates to encourage the sort of unilateral approaches he deplores.
But what we accept all of this and still say that a UN-like authority could work. It could be elected, its decisions determined by majority coalitions. We could have an effective world government deciding the key questions of foreign affairs and warfare. Let’s just imagine all the practical difficulties and legitimacy problems dissolve.
Would this proposed UN really be justified? I don’t think so. It remains the case that the majority can get it wrong, that might and numbers do not always make right. To surrender this belief is extremely dangerous for the future. When Britain abolished slavery, and the slave trade, it did so unilaterally, and was proud of that fact. We wanted to set the standard for the rest of the world and prove them wrong. As this happened in some cases, we also tried gunboat diplomacy in others, putting many sailors at risk in valiant efforts to end the slave trade. This was unilateralism, defying world opinion because we dared to believe we knew better. And who would now deny that we did?
Unilateralism is not some bogeyman concept of left-wing fantasies, but a moral and decent position adopted by nations who believe that what they stand for cannot be dropped merely because it is part of a temporary minority. Democratic governments rarely if ever go to war with one another, and the threat is not from them, but from the dictators and tyrants who ignore the wishes of their own people and inevitably soon threaten others. We who elect our governments do not need to be restrained, and if we submit to international restraint when they are strong, we may regret doing so when we are weak, and the tyrants of tomorrow have the power to break free of the shackles of international law and threaten us all. In no case is that truer than Saddam’s. ®
This is a somewhat tame (lame?) response, as I mostly agree with your post regarding the Polly Toynbee column and the moral standing of the UN.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 14:02 | Permanent Link |
Down with the BBC poll tax
AS THE BBC LICENSE FEE increases by 1.5% above inflation, Samizdata's Alice Bachini is angry to see yet another £100 million "provide the unelected lefty-establishment BBC" with the funds for further "lavish lesbian costume dramas and unintelligible Open University nonsense".
She has little time for the claim that the BBC can be free of advertising because of its poll tax:
Actually, the BBC is stuffed full of advertising: mostly advertising for itself and its own products.
How true. And the organisation is hardly destroyed by all this, is it? The BBC's cringe-inducing, patronising advertising of its own programmes is somehow a special case, but why? They don't even work on the basis of informing people of something they may wish to watch. Often, a programme will be advertised in detail on BBC1 or BBC2, then at the very end you find out only BBC4 viewers can even see it, the terrestrial BBC channels instead seeing their duty as making up for the criminal shortage of cookery and gardening programmes on British TV. What purpose does this advertising serve beyond flogging off more digital boxes - ie. commercial interests? Advertising its own programmes, services and books does not kill the BBC, so why would it be so bad for it to advertise washing powders or something?
Of the 'public interest' argument against advertising, she is even more dismissive:
[P]eople choosing what to buy is the general public interest: it's ordinary people doing what they want with their own money. If people don’t buy any more revolting liqueurs because of "Sex and the City" sponsorship, the sponsorship will stop and the annoying mini-ads will go. But the point is, however annoying those ads, who do you know who would choose to pay £116 a year to opt out of seeing them?
Finally, dealing with the notion that working to raise money through advertising is somehow more shameful than getting your funds through a poll tax, Bachini attacks the smugness of this attitude:
What I loathe most of all, however, is the idea that living off coerced money rather than earning it like everyone else makes you a superior benevolent authority better able to judge and further the 'interest' of the people you stole from.
There may be many who no longer watch the BBC, having so many other channels available to them. They benefit not a bit from the BBC's decision only to advertise itself, yet they must still pay for the privilege for as long as they have a television. The days are behind us when the BBC's license fee made sense, if it ever did. Now, in days of 50+ channels, the notion that a small handful of them are important enough to merit this fine is anachronistic.
Even if you would genuinely be willing to pay £116 every year to stop the BBC advertising something other than itself, I wonder - how do you justify forcing everyone else with a television to do the same? This coercion is the ultimate moral problem with the license. An optional fee paid to avoid advertising would be fine, but forcing that fee on everyone else, whether or not they even view the channels, is just not justifiable any longer.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 09:22 | Permanent Link |
Wednesday, February 12, 2003
Campbell becomes Deputy Liberal Leader as Beith moves on to chair paperclips committee
MENZIES CAMPBELL WAS today elected Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, beating Malcolm Bruce to the post by 31 votes to 22 among Lib Dem MPs. Like at least 99.9% of the public, I had no idea this election was taking place. Apparently the post became vacant after Campbell's predecessor, Alan Beith, resigned to become Chairman of the Select Committee on the Lord Chancellor's Department. Doesn't the fact that Beith would rather chair perhaps the most obscure Select Committee than be Deputy Leader of the Lib Dems tell you everything about the party's pretentions to significance, and about how little stock even its leading figures put in such fantasies?Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 23:05 | Permanent Link |
Support for the UN - a baseless, secular faith?
POLLY TOYNBEE CONCLUDED her column today by expressing opposition to the war on Iraq, but urging her readers to support it if it is backed by the United Nations with a second Security Council resolution.
Without a UN resolution, the rightness of the cause is clear cut. Only the UN confers legitimacy on any invasion and afterwards the UN will be essential during a long and difficult occupation. Even when liberated Iraqis are dancing in the streets revealing the full horror of the Saddam era, the future will look dauntingly dangerous - and unthinkable without the UN sharing that responsibility. If Tony Blair takes Britain to war without the UN, he is sunk.
As ever, the same familiar argument that somehow the United Nations has the power to make a war right or wrong. I decided to fire off an email to her asking her to defend this reasoning.
Dear Miss Toynbee,
So there was the challenge. Give some reason to believe in the UN - supply an argument for its moral legitimacy. Unlike the rest of her Guardian colleagues, she did at least reply:
War without the Un is unthinkable - if the Us can't even opeursuade the rest of the world with all its powerful cajolery - War with the UN will liberate teh deeply oppressed people of iraq, with some guarentees for future nation-building. It's not a perfect argument. But nor is no war and leave the Iraqi's to suffer, depsite UN supprt for liberating them..
Well, there we are. We should do what the UN says because to do otherwise is "unthinkable". Why, why, why? No answer given. She says that no attack on Iraq despite a UN resolution would leave the Iraqis to suffer. Surely it is obvious that the Iraqis would suffer in any case so long as Saddam is left in power, UN resolution or not? How does the Security Council's view change things? No answer given. If a UN resolution can determine the rights and wrongs even of war, can it do the same for apartheid? No answer given. Where does the UN's moral authority come from, and why should we decide the rights and wrongs of foreign policy questions based on its rulings? No attempt at an answer.
Well, I still await a proper answer to the email above. Send them in, folks. If the UN's support is what will make your mind up for you on this war, explain why you think this way. In the interests of good debate, I'll put up the best one, though I can't promise it will be without a good fisking. ®Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 14:42 | Permanent Link |
Guilt is good
LIKE A LOT of the anti-war lobby, I am fearful of the proposed anti-guilt pill, though perhaps not for the same reasons. The idea of it is that those who feel "traumatised" by the necessities of war can take tablets that will make them forget what they have done.
I fear that it would become widely available, a response to the incessant demands of pop psychology. The idea that anyone should have a good reason to feel guilty is curiously out of step with the modern age, almost puritanical and political. Guilt, as the enlightened know, is bad. Almost irrespective of the cause, it must be purged, as though a conscience is a character flaw. The other side of this self-obsessed mentality is reverence of self-esteem. I don't remember the last time I saw the word esteem written without "self-" in front of it. And indeed, self-esteem matters intensely, far more than doing something to earn it. If you feel guilty or low in self-esteem, the idea that it is a problem to be rectified by a change in behaviour rather than psychiatry is now quite revolutionary, the sort of thing you just can't say in polite company any more.
The release of these psychiatric "solutions" in pill form would make this change complete. The concept of the moral problem would die out, few any longer even capable of improvement, depriving themselves even of the feelings that could motivate them to strive to be better. In this banal, self-obsessed age, we need to remind ourselves that there is more to existence than instant gratification and our own happiness. This pill can only lock us for ever in the carnal, self-indulgent mindset of the animal. ®Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 05:57 | Permanent Link |
France frog-marches Germany down the path Petain walked
PERHAPS ATYPICALLY FOR A CONSERVATIVE EUROSCEPTIC, I am quite strongly pro-German, so it pains me to see the country acting as it now does, smashing NATO and putting Turkey at risk in response to America's justified destruction of the United Nations.
Andrew Roberts writes worriedly that for France this is just a matter of course, but that for Germany this is a quite radical step, and a step in the wrong direction.
[The Franco-German] plan is to redraw the global balance of power in such a way as to circumscribe Washington and London's freedom of action in the Middle East, North Korea and elsewhere. George W Bush has made it more than plain that this cannot be done in the UN, since America will act unilaterally in defence of what it perceives as its national interest if need be, so the chosen forum is Nato.
Read the whole thing. It's an acerbic and convincing analysis.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 04:54 | Permanent Link |
We are back
AT THE END OF LAST MONTH, I wrote optimistically of the slow and steady progress the Tories are making, resulting in a Labour lead of just 4% in the opinion polls. That lead is now just 1%, Labour being at 35% to the Tories' 34%. These positive polls aren't insignificant, and they confirm each other. Labour's honeymoon period is well and truly over, and the British public will soon be willing to listen to what we have to offer. I believe that when that time comes, they will like what they hear. The days are rapidly coming to an end when people will put up with being given all the choice the market has to offer when they book a holiday, but having no choice at all when it comes to the hospitals and schools their family uses. Only the Tory Party offers something better, and people will soon be ready to acknowledge that and vote accordingly.
But even now, the Conservatives are getting poll ratings we haven't attained since before Britain left the ERM, and Labour has hit its worst ratings in ten years. Let's hear no more talk about a moribund Tory Party. The Conservatives are back.
IAIN MURRAY NOTES in his comments on the same poll that the Liberal Democrats are clearly not benefiting greatly from their anti-war stance. If there was ever a time for the Lib Dems to pick up lots of support, it is now, with the leadership of both main parties supporting a war to which the majority of the British people are opposed. That they have not shows the limits of their type of vicious, dishonest, puerile campaigning and policy-making, and is a credit to the people of this country. ®Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 04:01 | Permanent Link |
Libraries must be about books
IT'S TYPICALLY NEW LABOUR to say that the definition of books includes "talking books, videos and CDs". Even sadder is their definition of the role of a public library: to offer "neutral welcoming community space and support active citizenship". Apparently those who think their role is supplying the written word in hardback or paperback format fail to see the bigger picture.
The Telegraph concludes that this amounts to a hatred of books. I would not go so far. It is really just about the same thing as always: sacrificing culture and learning in an attempt to appeal to the lowest common denominator and capture a mass audience in an age when those leaving schools able to read properly are barely the majority.
When public libraries first began, they were inspired by the noblest of intentions: ensuring that the greatest works of literature and civilised thought would not be available only to those who could afford to buy the book, but also granting the poor access, producing a more cultured and educated people. Now we see not the aspiration that the uncultured can improve themselves, but the lowering of libraries down to the level of the Big Brother-watching Eminem fan.
I believe strongly in the free market, but I am not one of those libertarians who opposes any government effort that doesn't either secure the realm against invaders or fight crime. So I strongly support the library system. Yes, because the institution is state owned and run, there is rationing in the form of waiting and available books, but this is not at the expense of a thriving private sector in books for sale. The only cost is in tax money. Consequently, the way to ration is obvious: you offer in libraries the reading matter that will educate and hopefully entertain. It is still in every taxpayer's interests to have a literate, well read populace, whose skills and learning are sure to be of benefit.
Quite how loaning out anything else but books aids the taxpayer in this way I do not understand. Sure, they may lend video tapes at a rental cost to make up funds. But if a library can make a lot of money from a video tapes section and nothing but fine payments from a hardback fiction section, then the pressure will always be to take up more and more of the library's space and budget with the money-making part of the enterprise. There comes a point when it turns into nothing more than a nationalised Blockbuster Video with a few books for hire. The state shouldn't be involved in such things. The private sector can handle it more than adequately.
In the meantime, the neglect is in the sector that matters - that which has something to offer the ever-declining literate and intellectually curious section of the population. As ever, the decent, silent majority who keep this country afloat lose out to the rest. For as long as there are politics, it seems that will be the way.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 03:32 | Permanent Link |
Monday, February 10, 2003
If a headteacher wants to expel a school thug, no bureaucrat should stand in the way
DAMIEN GREEN'S PROMISE to abolish Labour's bureaucratic appeals panels on school expulsions was supported by one of those Conservative arguments so sensible and irrefutable that the media and government simply ignored it. The suggestion that the headteacher of a school is not the best person to determine whether a young lout is fit to be taught there is exactly the sort of command management that is ruining our public services.
It has been said that as the appeals panels only overturn 3% of expulsions, they are hardly a thorn in the side of every teacher. To me this only suggests their redundancy. If 97% of the work any group did only confirmed that the person who made the original decision got it right, then you would ask questions about the necessity of keeping them on. But when it comes to school bullies and hooligans, the case against such panels is greater still, for although that 3% may be negligible in terms of the total, even one aggressive and vicious pupil can do much harm to a school. Take the latest successful appeal, which returned to school a lout of 11 who shot his teacher in the neck with the pictured gun. His return will be a signal to every other lout in the school that you can get away with almost anything, and will doubtless instill fear in every pupil and teacher the boy deals with.
A 2.9% wage increase for teachers may be too small. But a more important way to help teachers do their job and show respect for their decisions would be to bring an end to the appeals panels that second guess and overturn even the most justified of expulsions. This isn't an isolated incident, but just another outrageous example of the incomprehensible decisions that these people regularly make. It's only a few months since some children expelled for sending death threats to a teacher were returned to their school by the same process.
This isn't about politics as much as a basic respect for the profession of the teacher and the decisions taken by people working in schools. It's about a little common sense. The school appeals panels should be scrapped, certainly for the good of every decent teacher and pupil, and ultimately for the sake of the louts too, whose only hope of change may be the sudden sharp shock of realising that such behaviour is not acceptable. ®Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 15:47 | Permanent Link |
Sunday, February 09, 2003
Let's accept Brussels' offer to be in Europe, not run by Europe
ON 5 DECEMBER, I welcomed the suggestion of an associate membership option for EU states as the solution for all concerned. For Britain, it would mean we can continue trading freely with the rest of Europe without fear of political dominance from others. For the majority of the EU, it would mean they could progress with the superstate they so desire without the people of this country for ever dragged their heels.
Responding to the clearly federal draft EU constitution, the Sunday Telegraph argues the same, convincingly. It's not only easier for the government, but it's what the people of this country voted for.
For a sense of the document produced by Valery Giscard d'Estaing, who presides over the drafting body, consider just one clause: "The Constitution, and law adopted by the Union institutions in exercising competences conferred on it by the Constitution, shall have primacy over the law of the Member States" (Article 9). For the avoidance of doubt, the draft goes on to list the areas of policy where EU jurisdiction will pertain: transport, agriculture, energy, employment policy, the environment, trade, competition and home affairs among others. No wonder Tony Blair keeps talking about "schools'n'hospitals": under these plans, they are about all he would have left.
So long as the people of this country are given a say, they will not accept dominance by Brussels. We want to trade and ally with those European countries that desire the same, but we value our democracy and independence too much to wish to be governed by Europe. Blair cannot get what he wants, so his duty is to fight for what is best for Britain. Let's grab associate membership of the EU with both hands, letting full members go ahead with their plans, and ensuring for our country both self-government and free trade with Europe - the best of both worlds. ®Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 18:09 | Permanent Link |
Have the courage to stand up and say what your true pacificism means
IN AN INTERESTING COLUMN on modern Irish pacifism, Henry McDonald refers back to Orwell (always a good idea at times like this), and what he said against pacifists who felt compelled to disguise what it was they stood for.
While Allied forces were fighting and dying to liberate Europe in the summer of 1944 Orwell took the pacifist tendency in Britain to task. He said that he judged pacifists by the subjects they avoided: 'A courageous pacifist would not simply say that "Britain ought not to bomb Germany". Anyone can say that. He would say, "The Russians should let the Germans have the Ukraine, the Chinese should not defend themselves against Japan, the European peoples should submit to the Nazis, the Indians should not try to drive out the British." Real pacifism would involve all of that...'
As a logical consequence of pacifist doctrine, this is undeniable. But it was so monstrous that few would admit that they stood for it, not even to themselves. Today, I wonder if anyone opposed to the war is willing to admit the same. It is very easy to express opposition. But as Estelle Morris pointed out on Thursday, it almost seems as though people believe the choice is between war with Saddam on the one hand and no harm coming to anyone on the other, as though there will be no adverse consequences if we do not enforce resolution 1441. This is of course nonsense, and a genuinely courageous pacifist would admit this. The honest opponent of war would confess to a willingness to see Saddam Hussein develop a nuclear bomb, that he should not be stopped in his quest to dominate the region, that it is better that the people of Iraq live under the tyranny of Saddam and then his son than be liberated by war, that the threat of Iraqi weapons being given to Al-Qaida and others does not justify acting in self-defence, that every Briton, American, Israeli, Frenchman, Iranian and Kuwaiti who gave their lives fighting to contain Saddam died for nothing.
Admit it or not, though, this is the standard anti-war position now. It is hard to think of a more selfish, wilfully blind and morally bankrupt view. The only perspective I can imagine that is worse is the view that a second UN resolution makes an unjust war just and that the lack of one makes a just war unjust. This warped position states that one should not wrestle with his own conscience on this issue, but instead defer moral judgement to a man who would likely be in jail were he not French President, and to the dictators who brought you Tiananmen Square. Sadly this is a view held to vigorously by an even larger chunk of the anti-war brigade. ®Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 16:51 | Permanent Link |
AS THE DAILY MAIL fearlessly exposed every sordid detail of the Cheriegate scandal, the Guardian and BBC and other snooty newsmakers were unrestrained in their contempt for anyone who felt let down by what happened or saw it as a serious issue. The Prime Minister's wife getting Downing Street employees paid for by our tax money to lie to the people of this country? What a trivial and silly thing to get all worked up about.
With the disgraceful Iraq dossier now exposed as having been largely plagiarised from a one time Californian student's thirteen year old post-graduate thesis, we see the real effect. When the Mail warned that once we lost trust in Downing Street officials in one area, we could not trust them properly in any other, the enlightened response was scoffing. Now we see how right this was.
I support a war to liberate Iraq, but I want to win people over with the facts, with the moral and security based case for stopping Saddam before it is too late. This sort of outdated, exaggerated propaganda only serves to support the wildest conspiracy theories of the pro-Saddam lobby. Even when it gets things right, as with Iraq, this is a crooked, unscrupulous government, basing its every operation around spin and manipulation. I'd love to be able to trust it completely on this issue, but I cannot, and no one should. For whatever achievements Blair may be remembered, I am starting to wonder if the first thing that will enter people's minds when he is mentioned ten years hence will be sleaze and cheating. As Damien Green has warned, whatever its other achievements, this is largely true of the Nixon (and indeed Clinton) administration now, and could easily be the case for Blair, too. More than any of his predecessors in living memory, this Prime Minister just cannot be trusted.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 15:53 | Permanent Link |
The first counter (top right of this page) tracks the total number of hits the site gets. The second tracks the number of individual visits. If you refresh this page, the value on the first counter will increase because you viewed the page again, but that on the second will not, because it is the same visit.