Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Help Defend Free Speech!

This is a simply superb idea.
I cannot be there (see post below), but think this is a superb idea, largely because it is 100% legal and guaranteed to be an especially gratifying smack around the chops for Zanu-Labour.
In the meantime, here are some ideas for things about which exactly one individual ought to protest on 31st Aug:
  1. the ghastliness of the Eurovision song contest;
  2. the lunacy that allows VAT carousels to operate at all;
  3. the abject lunacy of CRB checks;
  4. That entertainment licencing thing that scuppers village halls;
  5. The total and utter failure of prisons to engender any feeling of remorse or contrition in those detained at HM's pleasure;
  6. (more topically) that OfCom ought to just F*CK OFF;
  7. That the person who thought it would be a good idea to ban spontaneous but peaceful protest outside parliament ought to just F*CK OFF;
  8. That the person who thought it would be a good idea to ban spontaneous but peaceful protest outside parliament whilst simultaneously allowing those with an axe to grind and no respect for our ancient freedom to display, openly, the flag of a terrorist organisation REALLY REALLY ought to just F*CK OFF;
  9. In fact, that most of the Government ought to just F*CK OFF;
  10. That something ought to done to stem the tide of the incessant, wanton, disproportionate, premeditated yet entirely unprovoked splitting of infinitives.
There. And that's 10 reasons just off the top of my head.
Act now: you must register your protest on or before 24th August.

Tigging and Tuscany

DK is incensed that he has been tigged and, charming young man that he is, responds to his tigger with his customary invective:
"damn his eyes."
Quite. DK then falls for the usual tosh that a problem shared is a problem doubled and has tigged me. Damn his eyes.
Your reliable Pedant-General, possessed as he is of a solid Protestant - some might say almost Calvinist - work ethic, will rise to the challenge...
... just as soon as he has finished up an ugly CR that needs to released shortly, worked out how to package a 3 tier wedding cake in order that it can be "DHL-ed" safely to Tuscany (don't ask), ensured the smooth passage of Lady P-G and the young masters P-G in hot pursuit of said wedding cakes (see above) at the hands of those nice people from Lufthansa, mowed the lawn, got his hair cut, responded to the delusion morons infesting the message boards at variously the BBC and the Telegraph, polished his kilt pin, found his already-polished-but-subsequently-mislaid sgian dubh, talked to his jolly nice lawyer about the impending wre-write of the positively byzantine P-G wills and then disappeared and (hopefully) subsequently returned from a much needed holiday....
Arezzo beckons. Who am I to ignore its siren call?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Bueller proffers an answer

I have been mulling over something along the following lines for a few days and have rather signally failed to get round to it, but DK has thrown down the gauntlet , and it would be churlish not to pick it and waft it in his face in a suitably provocative manner.

The gauntlet in question is not the prettiest of lacy things ever to have graced a delicate female hand:
So, let me ask you, what would you do to solve this crisis? Would you perhaps pour money into strengthening the Lebanese army so that they could obey UN Resolution 1559 and disarm Hezbollah? Would you look to the UN to help, as it did so effectively in the Balkans and Rwanda? Or perhaps we should invade Israel and "force" this ceasefire that everyone talks about?

Anyone? Bueller?

Having invoked the curse of Bueller in a recent post , I shall pause briefly to sue DK for plagiarism then move on to the matter at hand.

Let's start with a few assumptions. Best to get them out on the table.
Firstly, we'll assume that Israel's response is disproportionate.
Secondly, we'll take Hezbollah at their word when they say that their ultimate aim is to wipe Israel from the map.


Next, we'll note that there is little debate that Hezbollah is a terrorist organisation. Whatever it may be doing from a humanitarian point of view, I don't think that we need to entertain any notion that it's military wing is subject to any of the constraints of accountability to the executive of a nation state or, whilst we are on the topic, any notion of international law at all really.

Thus, whatever else we may need to do, there is ONE vital task to be achieved, which though arguably not sufficient, is clearly a necessary condition for a stable peace:
Hezbollah must be completely and verifiably disarmed and further that both it and any potential spin-offs or splinter groups or "real-" or "continuity-" Hezbollah follow-ups must be prevented from re-arming at any point in the future.

Nothing else matters whilst Hezbollah is still armed and capable (we will take the "willing" completely as read) of continuing rocket attacks and other incursions into Israel proper.

In fact, nothing else matters pretty much to the degree that the proportionality of Israel's response is largely irrelevant. It may complicate other matters of diplomacy and Israel may have to give substantially greater concessions and/or compensation to other parties are part of a wider peace treaty, but it has absolutely zero bearing on whether or not Hezbollah has to completely, unconditionally and verifiably disarmed.

OK. So our question is now really pretty simple. It is this:
What is the best, surest and least costly (in terms of blood and treasure all round) to disarm and disband Hezbollah, permanently and verifiably?

We can (thirdly) assume that Hezbollah is not going to be in a mood to be disarmed, especially if it has not already been by Israel. In fact, Hezbollah's disinclination to be disarmed will be in exact proportion to Israel's failure to do so before any such peace agreement: they will be wanting to claim victory and will not really want to play the role of the loser and surrender.

I had intended to examine a number of possible outcomes (the bulk of this post was written a week or so ago) but events have overtaken us. The governments of Israel and Lebanon have both accepted the terms but - allow me to contain my surprise - Hezbollah has declared that, although it accepts the ceasefire, it doesn't, apparently, have intention of abiding by its terms.

So I'm confused now. We know four things:
1) Hezbollah must be disarmed
2) Hezbollah does not want to be disarmed and will resist being disarmed
3) No-one except Israel is prepared to put the lives of its troops on the line to disarm Hezbollah
4) Israel was, until the ceasefire, actually trying to disarm Hezbollah.

Remind me. Why did we need Israel to pull out and stop doing the stuff everyone wants done but nobody else is prepared to do?

Whatever the answer might be, it strikes me that the ceasefire is pretty close to being its exact antithesis.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The tyranny of consumer choice

This is, I think, good news.
There are now more overweight people across the world than hungry ones, according to experts.

Whilst malnourished people in general do not have the option available to eat more, the huge majority of fat people could choose either to eat less or exercise more (or both).

This, I hear my audience clamouring, is a fairly mundane truth. Quite so. That is what makes the reporting of this issue on the 10 O'clock BBC1 News so poor. Obesity - as opposed to conditions linked to it, such as Type 2 Diabetes - was repeatedly referred to as a disease. It is not. It is a choice. We should not shy away from describing it as such.

Monday, August 14, 2006

A simply extraordinary article

I have no idea what possessed the editors of the Sunday Telegraph to commission and print this simply extraordinary article.
It is a nightmare being a British Muslim these days.
Probably. The question is: "Why would that be?"
While we must await the outcome of the police investigation following Thursday's raids before rushing to conclusions, the fact that a small number of angry young Muslims may wish to kill us hardly comes as a surprise.
Quite. Though I don't quite see why this follows directly from it being a nightmare being a British Muslim. Surely these sentences are in the wrong order.
A recent poll found that 7 per cent of British Muslims believe that suicide attacks on civilians in the UK are justified under certain circumstances. If extrapolated, this means that more than 100,000 of the 1.6 million Muslims living in Britain see nothing wrong in another 7/7.
I reviewed that poll here. It is indeed scary, but it wasn't presented that way at the time in the MSM and that is not the scariest bit of it either.
So what causes these disturbing sentiments? Many point to the economic plight of Muslims here. The statistics certainly paint a bleak picture. One in three has no qualifications, the highest for any minority group; only 30 per cent gained GCSE grades A-C compared with 50 per cent across the population, and 9 per cent of prisoners are Muslim.
Are you suggesting teachers routinely and openly discrimate against Muslim children in order to ensure that they underperform? Why is this not the case for other children from the subcontinent but who happen not to be Muslim? It is also not in line with the specific subset of Muslims who actually carry out acts of terrorism as the sister paper points out so eloquently this morning:
First, the home-grown terrorist threat was the fault of racist Britain for denying opportunity and educational advancement to Muslim youth. Then it turned out that most of those involved in the propagation of terrorism were middle-class and university-educated.
Whatever. Our illustrious commentator does at least try to distance himself from the "poverty as excuse for terrorism" ghastliness.
Others, most notably President Bush, assert that this is a war inspired by an evil ideology. This is not a wholly convincing argument. While many Muslims find Western customs such as binge drinking and pre-marital sex abhorrent, an attack on these values was not the rationale provided on video by two of the 7/7 bombers for their actions.
Sorry: you suggest (correctly) that GWB asserts (correctly) that these killers are inspired by an evil ideology. In order to dispute that, you then bring in something (supposed Western decadence) that he hasn't said and show that the killers haven't said it either. Well, I'll be dipped in dogshit. Can I use your strawman to wipe it off?
There is, however, no doubt that anti-Western sentiment is fuelled in many mosques up and down the country. We are constantly reminded that there is a perpetual battle between the righteous (Muslims) and the "kuffar" (non-believers). You will find no "love thy neighbour" sermons of the kind I heard as a child at an Anglican primary school. [My emphasis]
I'm hearing "evil ideology" here. How does this make GWB's argument above less than wholly convincing?
In addition to this, anti-Jewish sentiment appears to be hard-wired into a number of Muslims I meet. At the last general election, I remember being told by some of Watford's taxi drivers, slurping the froth from their pints of lager, that they could not vote for me as the leader of my party, Michael Howard, was a Jew.
But then, don't get, for example, Mr Nasrallah on the subject of Jews either. I'll put this one in the "evil ideology" while we are about it.
Then Muslims talk of "Islamophobia". Bigotry is a two-way street.
Yup. That needs saying too. Elements of Group A want to kill more or less anyone available from Group B (and any passing members of Group A for that matter), driven by an ideology that does not promote tolerance ("a perpetual battle between the righteous and the kuffar", "You will find no "love thy neighbour" sermons"), then Group A tries to claim that it is the victim. Not very likely to endear you to members of Group B really is it?
But wait: having largely confirmed that there is indeed an evil ideology at play, we are offered an alternative explanation for :
But it is the foreign policy pursued by the US and Britain, not deprivation or a clash of values, in my view, that is the principal catalyst of radicalisation.
Principal catalyst? So of all the people who marched in favour of the continued rule of a mass-murdering proto-fascist dictator with a track record of the use of chemical weapons against his own population, why was it only one easily-identifiable section who go on to invoke random slaughter against their fellow countrymen? An easily-identifiable section that is not taught by its elders to "love thy nieghbour" but is taught that there is and should be a perpetual battle between true believers and kuffar? An easily-identifiable section that is encouraged by its elders to view Jews with suspicion and to oppose the liberal values that have made the West the free place that it is.
Principal cause my arse. You need to do some serious work to explain exactly why an invocation to perpetual battle is, in fact, not an invocation to perpetual battle if you want that one to stick. Particularly when such invocations are being drummed into children as young as 7. [Ok - that is not in the UK, but the ideological link is there. Find me a Christian charity that would support this kind of behaviour]
The sense of frustration at the injustice faced by Muslims across the world as a consequence of the foreign policies of the West (principally the US) is palpable. Mr Blair's refusal to call for an immediate ceasefire in response to the current war in Lebanon ...
... a war prosecuted by a liberal democracy on the one hand and a genocidal terrorist group on the other ...
... only reinforces the view held by more than half of British Muslims that the war on terror is a war on Islam.
And who is doing anything to tell them otherwise? Because if their elders are telling them that they ought to be part of a perpetual battle, it is kind of hard for them not to see things through that prism, don't you think, ducky?
There is much talk of strengthening the moderates and rooting out extremists, but policy makers should be aware of how rapidly the moder-ates are becoming frustrated. The disturbing reality is that as their frustration grows, so will the fringe prepared to resort to violence.
Translation: "Do as they say or it will turn nasty. Don't say I didn't warn you."
Disagreement with your Government's foreign policy might well lead to anger. That is entirely fair enough. What irks is the attempt to create a link here between this (justifiable) anger and the willingness of some to express this anger - anger that should be directed towards the Goverment - by the indiscrimate and deliberate slaughter of their own countrymen. This link should be severed, not reinforced. This article does the opposite.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Caveat Emptor

In this discussion at Samizdata, there is the usual informed comment on difficulties of handling unstable precursors, such as nitroglycerine.
We are, ahem, brought back down to earth by one Jerry Mead:
Love it. Should any of "probably", "fairly" or "minor" prove to be - er - misplaced, the result would be refreshingly free of caveats.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Golden Thread

Right. Now that I have got that last lot off my chest, I am in a much finer condition to toddle off to the theatre.

To see this, no less. Given that my Grandfather and Great-Grandfather both served in the Watch (commanding the same company of the same battalion of the same regiment no less and the former earning 2 DSOs and an MC as he did so), I shall be fascinated.

With luck, I might bump into Robert and we might have a chinwag. More later.

Right and Wrong

Justice is blind. Well blinkered at the very least, not to mention stupid, bigotted and incontinent, if one is considering the justice meted out by your super-annuated Pedant-General. You will be glad that I have avoided commenting on another incarnation of [ruffles copy of Daily Mail and says "Harumph"]
Political Correctness Gone Mad.
But even your slothful and agnostic Pedant-General, disengaged-from-the-political-process as he is, cannot but be roused into action by this load of tosh that blots the blameless escutcheon of the Letters Page in the Times today:
All education has a moral dimension.
Yet a narrow focus on right and wrong is morally sterile, reducing right to what is not wrong.
Ummm... No. For example, "Helping Little old ladies across the road" is "right", assuming of course that he other side of the road is the destination sought by the little old lady. Punching people, unprovoked, in order to steal their dinner money is "wrong". Watching TV after a long hard day at work is neither. Whoever said that this was some kind of binary issue?
School rules by themselves do not make a good school.
True. It is the enforcement of school rules that helps make a good school. It is the fact that the rules ought to be respected, that it is wrong to break them and that you will have only yourself to blame if you do that makes a good school. See?
The good teacher does not go into teaching to become a policeman.
No, but that's what they end up being, "good" teacher or not, if they end up in a school that is "not good" and where there is scant regard for individual responsibility and the rule of law in general.
Phew. A new paragraph. I needed a break there. What does this bring?
It would be a great pity if multicultural Britain settled for a "lowest common denominator" approach to moral education.
On the contrary: it would be a huge improvement.
The Government has already saddled schools with "citizenship".
And, without wanting to morph into a frothing avatar of DK, what do you expect when the state gets involved in morality? The state should be a reflection of its citizens, not the other way round.
The late Cardinal Hume advised schools to educate into goodness. That is a far more liberating proposition, because it raises so many questions.
But it's not likely to do much good if you haven't sussed out the very basics of the "right" from the "wrong" end of the scale.
Unlike citizenship, which expresses a value-free view of the societal contribution of schools,
We've already covered this.
the search for goodness is the open road into humanity — and one from which future citizens of multicultural Britain can develop their own informed standards of what is wrong and what is right.
I give up. Who on earth could possibly write such drivel? Does this chap have any contact with the stuff that most teachers have to contend with?
Principal of the Mary Erskine School and Stewart's Melville College 1989-2000
Ah. No, then. Mary Erskine's is an extremely nice, extremely expensive private school in the centre of Edinburgh. Everything that Mr Tobin writes is eminently sensible in the context of the nice, well-behaved, middle-class children of the nice, well-behaved, middle-class parents that he would have encountered in his tenure at that noble seat of learning. But if your clientelle and especially their parents need to be strong-armed into signing up to
I think you will find that these loftier aims might just be the problem not the solution.

Monday, August 07, 2006

A profoundly Good Man

From very much the other side of the scale, economically speaking, but without question a decent human being.
Now appearing in the blog roll, rather where you would expect to see him.

Disappearing Missile Strikes

Richard North has been getting very excited about the suspected fabrication or staging of photos of casualties in Southern Lebanon.
This latest post caught my eye though:
Furthermore, we have so far been offered no photographs of this van, exterior or interior.
Hmmm... A civilian vehicle, allegedly hit by an Israeli missile, photographers right at the scene where the casualty lay, yet no photos of the stricken vehicle? Why so shy? I can't begin to think.