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   Monday, June 30, 2003
Friday was a busy day, hence no daily rambling.

I'm not sure if it made big news in the US, but last week six soldiers were killed by an Iraqi mob in a town near Basra. The soldiers were RMPs (Royal Military Police) who seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Earlier, elements of the Parachute Regiment was going through the town trying to remove weapons from the population, and it wasn't going smoothly. It is quite possible that the Paras were going in too hard, they have quite rep in the rest of the Army for being gung ho, and the regiment is still stained by Northern Ireland (it was the Paras who opened fire on demonstrators on Bloody Sunday), but the events are clearcut so I shouldn't get too dismal about possible Para over exuberance.

In any case, the Paras evidently saw fit to respond today.

I can see the reasons for doing this - a show of force, trying to make out to the Iraqis that they would much prefer us as friends than as enemies, but I'm sceptical that such a tactic is going to work. Its intimidation, and intimidation breeds resentment. It's a tough situation, but is removing weapons from the population so necessary? OK, they are interested in heavy weapons only, they are letting them keep their AKs, but I personally can't see why they should be trying to take these toys away themselves. I would have thought it would be better for all concerned if they waited until some Iraqi policemen have been trained up (thats why the RMPs were in there), and get them to collect the guns.

Watch this space, but I have an awful feeling that this town could well become a trouble spot, possibly even a no go area. Going in hard isn't going to help if the population are against you, I know this doesn't sit easy, especially with a military outfit like the Paras, and even more especially after those six deaths, but it seems to me from my armchair that they should be kissing ass more than they are kicking it.

   Thursday, June 26, 2003
Well, Bah. Bloggers new software has done horrible things to this blog. Doubtless it'll need some pushing and some prodding of various settings to get it riht, but as of now, I'm too busy to do so for a while.


Have to disagree with this post from Steven at USS Clueless. What he is showing is merely how the British unwritten constitution has evolved over the years. He's correct in that the monarch took an active role in running the country once upon a time (Lord North was put in power against Parliaments wishes by George III, for example) but thats not really fair. What Steven is describing is, in effect, a "constitutional amendment" made over time. Women couldn't vote in the US until the Twenties, meaning that 50% of the US population was disenfranchised. Also, need I mention slavery? I don't think either are relevant though, the beginning date of the United States is clear, to the very day.

No. All constitutions change and evolve over time. I would say ours is a constitution formed by evolution, but to say the government is as recent as the latest modification to its constitution is pretty much bunk. The Parliament Act of 1911 perhaps? The Act of Union in 1707? Joining the European Common Market in the 70s? Maybe even decolonization? Making life harder still are all these old relics from bygone ages who are still with us, and still with significant power. The Lord Chancellor (still here, just), the Privy Council, I suppose even the likes of Black Rod have some say in whats going on, albeit in -very- minor, ceremonial duties. And of course has our constitution really evolved that much? Steven says that the monarch has been toppled from absolute power but on paper thats not actually true, the Queen, in theory, still enjoys the same powers now that the monarch did in 1776, though convention dictates that she not use that power. A flag wasn't hoisted up one day here declaring independence after all, it's a harder thing to pin down that that, a transition which has for centuries been continuous and gradual evolution.

No. I think personally that the genesis of the very early British state, though it had a lot of evolution and "constitutional amendments" to go, was probably the Glorious Revolution in 1688, though the idea of a modern "Instrument of Government" (a very embryonic form of a written constitution) was set up by Cromwell about thirty years earlier. Far as I know the Instrument of Government was done away with during the Restoration of the monarchy, and after some unease eventually the Glorious Revolution happened.

The British state is the end result of constant reform and tweaking, and while the government of 1689 bore little resemblance in practice (though considerably more on paper) to the modern British government, with the Reform Act of 1832 and the Parliament Acts yet to come, it is still year dot, the point when the evolutionary process began. There has been no revolution since that point, no tearing up of the constitution, no massive realignment of government powers. Power has inexorably migrated from Monarch to Lords and from Lords to Commons over at least three hundred years, but this is evolution, not founding, in the same manner as womens suffrage and freeing of slaves.

(And the End of Days is probably near, when the EU Constitution is signed. Constant continuous and gentle have not been bywords of the Blair government.).

On the other hand, France has had 5 republics in 200 years, and France, Germany and Prodi's own Italy are no older than 50 years each, thanks to World War 2, de Gaulle's new government, and denazification. So even between them, they aint as old as the US. But then Prodi always was full of hot air.

Not that having a government founded in the mists of time is a good thing, the English Declaration of Rights is so far back in the centuries now, and so ignored, and so anachronistic to modern eyes, that its value and the statements in it it makes are debased to the point of irrelevance. Sadly.

BoJo fires a salvo at the EU again (All EU, All Day) on the latest lunacy to emanate from the EU.

Seems to me this would affect just about everything aspect of society. Are they trying to eliminate gender???

...we shall abolish orgasm...

Once upon a time, it was not politic to accuse the BBC of malpractice. It was akin to blaspheming against Mother Church - The BBC is Good And Pure, whatever they say must be the truth, free from political inflection. Thats the reason why we pay the license fee after all, no? To insulate the Beeb from the petty concerns of marketing and sponsorship, so it can be truly objective. To challenge this assumption was to brand you a philistine, and was possibly indicative of a sign of a lack of love for ones country and its national symbols, for the BBC was a national symbol.

No longer.

I recall when Greg Dyke, a long time Labour apparatchik, was put in charge of the Beeb. It happened almost minutes after the 1997 election which swept Blair to power (I wonder why), and there were many rumblings of dissent from the Tories, even then. But, hey, it was accepted that when the Government chooses the man to head the Beeb they put a friend of theirs in there (the Tories are no less guilty), even if perhaps not with quite as much speed. And the BBC is Pure, so they would never be biased now, would they.

Well, with the war coverage which is now infamous on both sides of the Atlantic, and the election campaign coverage (An entire night of Torybashing, with a sort of almost ashamed "Er, the Tories won" tacked on the end), and near constant needling, it looks the Tories have finally had enough.

Anybody who doesn't think the Beeb is biased is either a socialist, in which case what the Beeb says is The Purest Truth (bit like the Guardian really), or has never been greatly exposed to it.

Thing is, the BBC is a truly vast organisation, and they have many services, and some are much worse than others. In the normal everyday viewing, the news broadcasts at 6 and so on, it does manage to be pretty much neutral. Usually. But out on the fringes (The BBC World Service, the various people that live in the basement of BBC central and get dusted off to attend to election coverage, whoever it is who decides on a panel consisting of A CND Supporter, a Baathist, The Iranian Ambassador, The MP for Baghdad Central and an American With a Bullseye Drawn On His Face) are some quite shockingly bad examples of "an angle", to put it mildly.

Of course, making matters even worse are Tory ideas to break the BBC up and privatise parts of it. So the BBC is now involved directly in the debate. If the Tories get in, all those public sector fatcats like Greg Dyke could well be out of a job. I think few would believe that this does not affect their reporting. I think a journalist would have to be a saint not to have that colour their journalism a little, and the BBC is no saint.

The organisation did not get the nickname of Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation for nothing. The fact that the BBC represents an enormous, state sponsored slice of the British diet of televised media should be cause for worry, and should make any accusations of bias be taken very seriously indeed.

   Tuesday, June 24, 2003
The knives are out for Alistair Campbell, says the Telegraph will ill disguised glee.

Not sure how this will go, it could go badly for Campbell and Tony B Liar, but I suspect not. Possibly Campbell is being set up as sacrifical lamb by Blair, but I suspect the end result will be that while the dossier was dodgy, it won't be dodgy enough to really bring down the wrath of Parliament upon the miscreants.

This morning, while walking to work (no car) with my work colleague (also no car), we were talking, as is normal amongst human beings, about football. To be precise, the Brazil vs Turkey match last night, and Brazil's humiliation at the hands of the Turks, and the subsequent violence from the Turkish fans. My colleague went on about how he thought that Turks in general were prone to violence culturally, and backed this up with a story of his days in London.

Apparently, one day he went into a kebab shop in London with a friend, and after buying a kebab, thought it was overpriced and tried to haggle with the owner. The owner wasn't impressed, and then my colleagues friend piped up saying he worked for the local council and could cause said shopkeeper to lose his license unless he charged more reasonable rates for his kebabs. At which point the shopkeeper told em to get out either on their own steam or propelled by his fist (such respect for the State there, anyway :).

I'm not familiar with the intricacies of the retail sector and just what meddling local government gets into there, but my colleague was saying that he had the right to expect kebabs at a reasonable rate, or the government would kick the retailer out. Something about how "if someone wants to set up a kebab shop, they ask the council for permission, the council then determines if its good for the residents before granting Captain Kebab permission to lay out his wares. If the owner of the shop then is deemed not to be "good for the community" the council can and will shut him down.".

OK, I can understand it if the guy was abusive for no reason, that seems to be more a matter of personal conduct. But selling overpriced kebabs means the council should turf him out? My colleague was most insistent that yes, thats exactly what should happen. In other words, price fixing set by the State to a level deemed acceptable.

My point that he could just go elsewhere and take his custom to another kebab shop if he was unhappy with the one in question for whatever reason fell on deaf ears. If the government was not involved kebabs would be overpriced everywhere because they would form a cartel. Apparently.

To my knowledge, the corner shops, kebab shops and chip shops of London are not likely to be formed into an evil corporate enterprise intent on stitching up all their customers to bleed them white as they search for ethnic fast food products. I was just struck by what a shocking lack of disregard this guy had for the free market. He really did think the only way that these rapacious kebab sellers could be prevented from ripping him off was to get the government to price fix them.

I was - am - a little speechless. It sounds practically communist to me, like he was suddenly talking to me in Russian not English, and my sole response was to listen uncomprehendingly and nod every so often. And the really scary thing is :-

This man voted Conservative.

If this guy is a Tory, the country is doomed. Wheres my green card?!?!?

   Monday, June 23, 2003
More from All EU, All Day!

The Torygraph reveals a little of just what was going on when the British public was bamboozled into joining the Common Market back in the Seventies under the august Edward Heath.

It makes one wonder just what is going on behind the scenes at the BBC right now, when the government is doing its utmost to drag us in to the EU at the same time as dismantling every governmental institution we have that does not conform to the blueprint the EU has laid out for us.

   Friday, June 20, 2003
This is a gem of insight which I found at ARRSE again (Soldiers have plenty of insight it seems) on the subject of Tony Blair and just how far his prime ministerial fiat goes.

Where you are getting mixed up is with where the ultimate power and will of the people is exercised, and that is not with Blair, much as at present he likes to think so. The ultimate power and will of the people lies with Parliament, the whole of Parliament. Yes, Blair can form laws, can lead the Treasury, enact tax regimes etc. etc. but only insofar as Parliament allows him, and any law or constitutional issue is controlled and run by Parliament. Blair may be the man that leads those that put the issues to Parliament, but he still needs a majority to enact those issues, he has NO POWER outside of this, and his office carries no personal weight or power in and of itself. He has one vote, and one vote only, whether it be on the budget, deployment of troops, or whether to build new roads, and that one vote carries no more weight than any other MP's in Parliament.

Ahh, the balmy relief of a source of news which is not the BBC. It even includes some digs at Robert Fisk, of which my favourite has to be

"It was this that led Robert Fisk, whom my colleague Stephen Glover regards as a ‘genius’, to suggest in print that when the Yanks claimed to be at Baghdad International Airport they’d in fact wandered by accident on to an abandoned RAF airfield many miles away. Nobody who knows anything about a modern military or even the kind of GPS technology that Chevrolet now include in their mid-price trucks and SUVs would say anything so stupid in print — unless he were so blinded by irrational Yankophobia that he was impervious to anything so prosaic as reality. "

Hysteria happily off, until the next lefty BBC report.

   Thursday, June 19, 2003
I just found this via a link from ARRSE. If that is true, the US military better get its act together quick, or it'll be like Ulster. Or Vietnam. Neither of which are particularly encouraging.

Now, before getting hysterical, it must be pointed out that

  • This is the BBC we're talking about here - any Iraq/America news must be treated with scepticism, for fear of institutional bias
  • This represents an interview with a handful of soldiers who may or may not be representative of the occupying army as a whole
  • Given the above point, and the fact that no news, while good news, will not fill a BBC webpage satisfactorily, it is likely that these individuals represent the most jaded, traumatised, stressed out and violent misfits they could find.
  • Given we see the BBC beating its political drum towards the end of the report, the the above comment seems more than likely true to me...

    However, even if all the above is true , it is still a significant issue which, I feel, requires addressing. (If you don't believe the Beeb, try an article with a different slant which yet recognises the problem at NRO). I notice that I've not seen any reports from the admittedly much smaller British army presence out there (if anybody can give me an example of some "over exuberant" British soldiers showing lack of self restraint and discipline, please email me, I'm curious). I suspect that the US Army is not well equipped in terms of training or ethos to deal with the rigors of being an occupying army in an at least partially hostile land. The US Army is all about defeating other conventional armies. The unquestioned ability of this army was demonstrated by going through Saddam so effectively (and that was as much a matter of training as it was of fire power). But peacekeeping is an ugly word in US circles, with UN connotations, and there are persistent, usually only half heard, accounts of US peacekeeping operations which are best described by the word incompetent, harsh though that may seem.

    I've heard several anecdotal tales from military friends RL about utterly botched US peacekeeping missions in Bosnia. The events Hollywoodised in Blackhawk Down stemmed from another botched peacekeeping mission in Somalia (the US government of the day, not the military, shoulders much of the blame for the Somalia debacle). The US hasn't even attempted to send a significant peacekeeping force to Afghanistan for fear of casualties, with the result that Afghanistan has reverted to feudalism, President Karzai is president in name only, and the Taliban still has not yet been wholly rooted out. And now we have similar tales of lack of peacekeeping finesse coming from Iraq.

    This is not really surprising. The US army is not intended to be an army of occupation, but of liberation and of defence, so it can hardly be blamed for being perhaps bemused by the sudden very different situation of being an occupying army. But - given the realities of the post Cold War world and the war on terror, it looks like the US army is going to be doing more peacekeeping than ever before. , and to be blunt, they better start shaping up to it. Peacekeeping is a nasty business, and it doesn't earn much kudos. A year of miserable occupation (or 30 years, like in Northern Ireland) do not make good impressions, unlike watching statues of Saddam fall. But life isn't all about the star studded jobs which make you look good. To finish the job, to do some nation building, to really make a positive impact, at some point the Western armies are going to have to do some of that onerous duty - peacekeeping. Occupying. Providing security. Call it whatever you will, if "peacekeeping" is a word too tarnished by the UN to be stomachable.

    I'm not going to compare the British army to the US in detail, as I'm sure it'll just seem patronising, but while the US brass may mock "hearts and minds", in my view, they should take heed, and get a grip on the tendency to solve problems with a gun, or even better, by pressing a red button while safely 200 miles away.

    Fortunately, I don't think I am the only one to notice this deficiency is US military (or is it paramilitary?) ability. I have heard (sadly, no link, but an URL on NRO is out there, somewhere) that an idea was bandied around in the US to create a military force specifically for peacekeeping duties. The reasoning goes that you want to keep your army sharp and focused on the business of defeating enemy armies, and not potentially lose that razor edge by making them double as policemen. Sound enough reasoning, assuming you have enough peacekeepers and can put them in their quickly enough when the war is officially over. I'm a little sceptical of the approach (Better a soldier be a generalist I think, these messy situations involving bullets and bombs often stymie attempts to allocate the right numbers of specialists at the right time) but glad to hear that someone, somewhere, is perhaps addressing this problem.

  • Yesterday (a busy day so no blogging) was the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo (18th June, 1815), when 19th century French dreams of empire building were finished by la perfide Albion, as per usual. Here is an outline of the battle, for those interested in a little military history.

    While reading it myself, I was amused by this paragraph.

    The Allied cavalry counter-charged but the Netherlanders refused to move, instead leaving the field en masse and arriving in Brussels with the news that Napoleon had won.

    The Belgians. 'Nuff said.

       Tuesday, June 17, 2003
    NRO has managed to find something good about the EU constitution (a daunting task, indeed) though it isn't phrased in that way, of course.

    I have always found it a strange and interesting paradox that the US, with an explicit separation of church and state, is so religious, while in the UK, where church and state is very much intermingled, from bishops sitting in the Lords on down, religion is considered more as a hobby for the eccentric.

    OK, I'm just a little biased here, but I think few could challenge that the United Kingdom, overall, is more secular than the United States is.

    Which is a good thing. Thank God that God is being left out of it. There is no need to be prescriptive about religion, thats what freedom of conscience is. I personally find religion to be almost comically anachronistic - I really just do not get it. (I guess my Faith rating hovers at zero percent). It is an utterly alien concept to me, the idea of there being a God. I've read some nifty articles (of which this is a good example) which have convinced me that, logically, my own views on atheism are a matter of "faith" in itself, but, well... I guess I'm the Islamic fundamentalist of atheism then.

    Now, I don't preach my faith to others. Not being able to comprehend theists, I would be a poor preacher anyway... In my own life, it doesn't really impact on me whatsoever, I'm such an atheist I don't even really think that other people might think differently. (Well, aside from nutters and suicide bombers, but reasonable, rational, normal people, anyway). I'm a believer in freedom of conscience. Whatever you want to do in your own time is your own affair, provided your not hurting anybody by your actions. You could worship energy-beings from Sirus B (close enough) or the Christian god, it doesn't bother me. Just don't try to sign me up to it.

    Having a constitution, even if it is only a meaingless preamble, which exults in such activities, is in effect signing me up. I find the idea vaguely repellent. I'm not willing to stand by a piece of paper extolling the virtues of my forefathers slavish devotion to a form of fascism called the Catholic Church circa 1400 AD. I can explain away my tolerance of bishops sitting in the House of Lords, and all the other religious components of the British system, by noting to myself that none of this has much impact on the day to day running of the government, and it is so debased nowadays, I would say that the religious components of the present British constitution have less weight than a preamble, and can amiably support them. I'd like to keep the bishops in the House of Lords, they can't hurt, after all. Even if the rather timid Anglicans who sit there suddenly mutated into fundamentalists, they are outnumbered about 500 to 10, so their impact would be negligible. I wouldn't put them in there myself, but having a respect for ancient institutions, neither would I turf them out. Rather like me being a monarchist, I may support the institution of the British monarchy out of respect for tradition, but I wouldn't be happy to be ruled by an absolute monarch, and the same goes with religion in our government.

    However, if I was signing up to a new constitution, the tradition argument is removed. To have such a view alien to me enshrined in a modern document I find vaguely repellent. So bravo, NRO found a good thing, quite probably the only good thing, about the EU constitution - it's wholly secular.

    I am well aware that this screed is a matter of the heart, and possibly even faith going by Steven Den Beste, not the mind, and am unable to offer much more of the reasoning behind my views than I have already hinted at. But then, I think a preamble is the place for matters of the heart anyway.

    This post will be the one and only post in support of the proposed EU constitution. I promise.

    Even Samizdata weigh in against the mutilation of our constitution (Libertarians supporting the office of Lord Chancellor, wow), though admittedly through a Eurosceptic lens (and not one I disagree with, I hasten to add).

    I think the new poisonous breed of "progressives" in this country, combined with the hand of the EU, have effectively meant the end to our days of an unwritten constitution. We've had Labour governments before, all had greater respect for the British constitution than this one. Even when they came up against the Lords, they managed to resolve the situation without resorting to packing the Upper Chamber with their cronies.

    I suspect after the precedent set by Blair, every future Labour government will be intent on wrecking the whole constitutional show. He has managed to utterly destroy the last vestiges of respect for tradition, and I suspect that respect is not something that will ever return to the Left (they never had it in great abundance before after all).

    Unfortunately, I see no easy way out of this one. I doubt the Tories would ever propose a written constitution for this country, after all, the conservative approach would be to do it as we always have done, ie have no constitution.

    A shame, I think if we had a constitution which explicitly handled the notion of the origin of sovereignty, as the US constitution does, we wouldn't be on the edge of the EU abyss right now.

       Friday, June 13, 2003
    And like a bolt from the blue, Blair does it again! Progress (in the progressive sense) has been made yet again. I wonder what the motivation for this could be?

    I doubt it is a healthy one. Tales of judges ruling against the government (funnily enough, here's one right here the very same day) have gone on for some time. There was even talk in eurosceptic circles along the lines of the legality of signing British sovereignty away to Brussels. If the judges are as rigged as an 17th century frigate, that'll mean far less opposition to The Movement in future.

    Note how this deed is done in typical Tony style - ie, without any regard for the Commons, not even a debate, just prime ministerial fiat. Slunk in while nobody's looking, and likely, now it's done, irreversibly.

       Wednesday, June 11, 2003
    One tax I am prepared to pay - Sovereignty Tax.

    I'd be happier to pay a pound a week than end up as a cog in the Union of European Socialist Republics.

    Of course, Simon Jenkins is going to be biased, being a journalist, but I noted this in a blog here a while back.

    It must be infuriating to Mr Blair, and to Mr Dougal and his colleagues, to find British newspapers alone in drawing attention to this rottenness. But newspapers have been sucked into a vacuum. Democrats grab safeguards against arbitrary power where and when they find them. In Britain at present they find them in a raucous, exhaustive, opinionated, irreverent, biased but healthy press. Thank God for it.

    Yes, indeed. The diversity of the British press (and I salute even the IRA sympathisers of the Guardian here) is one of the great pillars propping up democracy in this country. The prowling jackals of Fleet Street go well beyond merely being a free press. Just about every view and opinion can find support in at least one British paper.

       Tuesday, June 10, 2003
    I have time to comment on this news item regarding the BBC drama, Spooks. This is a classic example of Muslims refusing to have anything even remotely negative written about them, while they bury their heads in the sand and whimper "Not me!" when accusations of terrorism fly.

    Having watched the programme myself, I think the BBC couldn't possibly make the storyline any more pro-Muslim. The extremist cleric was made out to be psychotic, the suicide bombers brainwashed victims. Other Muslims seemed to hate him. The star of the show was the Algerian agent who died a real martyrs' death at the end. He struck me as nothing short of heroic, and he was certainly a devout Muslim. MI5's dependence on this man was stressed heavily (they even had the CIA after him, he was that valuable).

    I challenge anybody to come up with a more pro-Muslim yet non-farcical storyline which handles the topic of Muslim extremism. I would be certainly be hard put to do so. It seems the only way you could be more pro-Muslim is to pretend it doesn't happen, which is what the Saudi government seemed to use as a tactic.

    Quite possibly a light blogging week again, but I direct you to here - the Guardian gives quite a balanced report on what European papers think of the British hesitancy to dip a foot into the eurozone water.

    The angst of the German papers in particular caught my eye.

       Monday, June 09, 2003
    If you want some "light reading", you can read the Treasury's economic assessment of euro membership for this country over at the Guardian, who were kind enough to make it available in .pdf format.

    Porphyrogenitus wrote this article a couple of days ago that I just noticed. I would say that his analysis on Blair's future is a little alarmist - I don't think Blair will be removed as PM (admittedly nobody thought that would happen to Thatcher either, but it did) by his own party, but on the other hand, he doesn't need to be actually gone in order to be leaned on. If no WMDs are found, it could well be in future episodes of the war against terror, that Blair will be unable to drum up enough Parliamentary support to back him. The Blair currency will be tarnished badly if no WMDs are found in Iraq, and he managed to bull through an unhappy Parliament this time around purely on his own personal strengths as Our Leader.

    A damaged Blair will not be as likely to be able to get away with that. He took a big risk this time around and almost paid the price for it, but next time around he may deem the risk to be too great.

    Incidentally, the British Army is now so underfunded and overstretched thanks to Labour Party cuts, that the head of the Army advised that the Armed Forces require at least 2 years of comparative rest before they can get involved in another operation like Iraq. Which is damning, to put it mildly. I suspect this is a problem which will never go away, there is little stomach from any political party to actually raise spending on conventional military forces, no matter how strong the case. Though, to be fair, the intelligence services budget, which was slashed at the end of the Cold War, is apparently now back up to Cold War levels.

    Intelligence is good, but knowing that something (may) be headed our way is no good if we are incapable of acting to stop it - and that is the job of a conventional military.

    I was idly reading this standard republican fare in the Times and, despite myself, mostly agreeing with it, though not to as much of a radical degree (I am a monarchist after all), but then I noticed the author. "The Centre for the New Europe In Brussels", eh? Any organisation with a name like that is highly suspect to me. Doubtless there won't be a "New Europe in Brussels" so long as the Crown still exists. The value of the monarchy as a bastion of tradition and a preserve of national identity is doubtless not considered a value at all by such an author.

    Whenever I see a perfectly cogent republican argument which I can broadly agree with, there is always a fly in the ointment somehow, and the fly is always what the republican in question would like to see instead. William Hague said recently that you could argue the pros and cons of a monarchy quite happily, but the problem with an alternative is that nobody has come up with a less onerous alternative to having a monarch - and this is so true. The author of this article doubtless would be happy for a USE President to take that role, but of all the possible alternatives to the Queen that one is pretty much as the bottom of my list of preferences.

    In this other article I was likewise noting how I agreed with it in its entirety, and was also surprised by the author - no less than IDS Himself. Maybe there is hope yet? He's on my wavelength on this issue, anyway.

       Saturday, June 07, 2003
    This is lifted from USS Clueless.

    "A reader in France writes to say, You might not know about the hard strike being fought by leftist unions against a mild pension reform right now. I want to call your attention to the fact that people are starting to protest against that strike and that our human rights are being seriously damaged. Here is a letter I just sent to a human rights organization (The government does not seem to do anything to protect us, this is why I hope to get some support by publicizing the thing abroad):

    Dear Sir,

    As you may now, France is now undergoing a series of strikes protesting the government's pension reform. Among the strikers, the Communist Union "Confederation Générale du Travail" is using unacceptable methods that violate the most basic human rights. Today it has vandalized and burnt the employers' union offices in several cities. Worse, this organization has prevented, in the city where I leave, a meeting by a democratic political party and violently intervened in a demonstration by people who protested the strike, in order to make sure that demonstration would fail.

    Furthermore, the government is taking no steps to maintain public order and guarantee people's freedom of goverment and expression. The city of Toulouse was blocked during the morning of yesterday and not a single step was taken by public authorities to end this blocking. On the contrary, the police collaborated with the unions in order to make sure that people could not pass. In the demonstration I just mentioned, not a policeman was dispatched to protect us against the assaults of the communist union's members.

    I realize that this is small stuff compared to the atrocities taking place in several countries. Nevertheless it is taking place right in the middle of Europe and it would be of great help if this state of things were publicized by your organization. I can provide you with further testimonies about the events I am referring to, if needed. We badly need the help of the international community in fighting these constant violation of human rights by the communist union.

    Best regards,


    He continues, Could you help by mentioning that or tell me any organization or other blogs I could contact? Could you also NOT cite my name? I am afraid of reprisals. Today they beat a businessman who declared in the newspaper he was going to sue them for the blockade."

    Perhaps in some small way my posting that here furthers the mans goals, with my mighty readership (!).

       Friday, June 06, 2003
    Last comment before I go back to the grind - I found this on Samizdata which I agree with...

    Here in Ulster, the paramilitaries on both sides have successfully hid great caches of arms for decades under the noses of a highly professional army in an area a tiny fraction of the size of Iraq with far greater population density. So the fact it may take a long time to find these things in Iraq is only a 'surprise' to people who are being disingenuous and have a very big axe to grind.

    Indeed. If you were looking for a few bottles of VX hidden somewhere in the UK, it would be a hard job finding them... and Iraq is a big place. Manufacturing facilities are bigger than a few bottles, but the ingenious can always find a way to hide things. And a country is a big place, though Iraq may look only a few inches across on a map of the Middle East.

    Blogging has been light this week for a reason - I am unusually inundated with things to do at work, which is where 90% of these screeds are cooked up. Still, I noticed this in the Guardian, and thought I'd flag this up as an example of just how cracked that august institution is. It has it all, the old chestnut of murderers being cast as noble freedom fighters (one mans terrorist is -not- another mans freedom fighter, nobody who is noble deliberately targets civilians with violence in order to score political points), pie in the sky appeals to morality (Lets all be Friends), and more.

    My own opinion regarding Israel is decidedly fatalist. I think both sides are almost as bad as each other. Israel is a functioning democracy, but the points made about Israel's founding in 1948 are I believe valid, I've read similar things from a variety of sources and not merely the Guardian. Israel is practicing what is, in effect, ethnic cleansing, and has been for fifty years - when that was done in Serbia, we dropped bombs on them. The Israeli's deal with stone throwers with tanks and gunships, my God, if the Brits did that in Northern Ireland I expect we would be bombed. Israel is effectively a colony (they just moved in and settled) and the modern Israel was founded in blood and just got more brutal as the violence spiralled.

    The Palestinians are even worse than the Israelis - led by incompetents, blinded by Islamist dogma, corrupt from top to toe, addicted to terrorism, vehemently anti-Semitic along with the rest of the Arab world, need I go on?

    Bush has a strong hand now though, he has immense leverage over both sides, and has proven that when he says he means to do something, he does it, which gives him a great deal of credibility. Maybe he can sort it out, he seems to have the best chance of any American president to date.

    But I don't envy him that job.

       Wednesday, June 04, 2003
    It seems Janet Daley at the Telegraph seems to mostly agree with what I said a couple of days about about the NHS.

    "The authors of the "consultation document" put their collective finger on the nub of it. The NHS, they say, is a "free but finite service". Yes, indeed. There it is. The contradiction at the heart of the British healthcare crisis."

    Yup, thats it in a nutshell.

       Monday, June 02, 2003
    Porphyrogenitus starts a series on the EU constitution. While on the topic here are is another link - one on democracy, or the lack of it, in the EU. And a link here emphasising the differenced between Anglo-Saxon law, and that found on the continent.

       Sunday, June 01, 2003
    I am wryly amused by reading this article in the Telegraph. Lord Saatchi, peer of the realm and member of the unelected House of Lords, arguing about how the Commons is afraid of public opinion and campaigning for a referendum. (Admittedly, Saatchi is a life peer not a hereditary, but still).

    Good to see the Lords still have a use.