Saturday, January 13, 2007

West Brom Thievery

If this is some massive coincidence or a mistake then I apologise but at the moment it looks like West Brom blog has rather stolen one of my posts. Compare this from my blog on Friday:

"However, Weyman Bennett, of Unite Against Fascism, said: “There should be no difference between a private racist opinion and a public racist opinion.”"

This is possibly the most disgustingly illiberal statement I have ever heard from someone supposedly within the political mainstream.

It is a direct assault on freedom of thought. The idea that private opinions are in any way equivalent to public incitement to racial hatred is a manifesto for witch hunts. This is a non-political figure who never openly stated her beliefs but could be hounded out of her job for being making the wrong political choice in private. To make people's private thoughts and beliefs, no matter how idiotic, a subject for public censure is the final death of meaningful freedom.

With this from the West Brom Blog today:

I was totally disgusted by UAF and shocked at the totally illiberal statements they made.

Weyman Bennett, of Unite Against Fascism, said: “There should be no difference between a private racist opinion and a public racist opinion”.

UAF are directly assaulting freedom of thought. The idea that private opinions are in any way equivalent to public incitement to racial hatred is a manifesto for the type of witch hunts UAF seem to so enjoy. Simone Clarke was not a political figure. She never openly stated her beliefs but was outed by the Guardian Newspaper. Yet she could be hounded out of her job for making the choice she made in private. To make people's private thoughts and beliefs, no matter how idiotic, a subject for public censure is the final death of meaningful freedom. The only thing UAF have demonstrated is the fact that they too are fascists, and that they lack the collective intelligence to realize it.

There are far too many similiarities. Without crediting me this is just plagiarism. If Pete reads this then, please make it right; if he doesn't could someone please educate him about proper netiquette.

Update: Apparently this was an honest mistake. He read my article and then wrote his own and my turns of phrase had just stuck in his head. Fair play, mistakes happen, no hard feelings.

A Big Clunking Fist?

Gordon Brown has somehow achieved a reputation for being a 'serious' thinker but his column for the Telegraph is another example of how he has failed to live up to that billing. His article is about the importance of Britishness but what are his proposed solutions?

More emphasis on British history; I'm pretty certain your average Tory four year old could have come up with this. An Institute for Britishness; isn't the "lets have an institute" approach always indicative of a lack of ideas? A permanent display of important British documents; doesn't the British Library already do this? And, finally, let's do something about the flag; no idea what.

Of course, if this article were a masterful exposition of the problems facing Britishness then a lack of a solution might be acceptable. There aren't any tried and tested routes to increasing national unity and not every article needs to answer that question. However, this piece was even more facile when dealing with the causes of a breakdown in Unionism. He decided to blame "some Conservative writers" who "now embrace anti-Unionist positions, from independence to "English votes for English laws" – a Trojan horse for separation". English votes for English laws is a, fairly moderate, response to the constitutional inequities of a system his government introduced and the idea of blaming conservatives for this is, as Iain points out, rather unimpressive. But shouldn't Brown be asking why conservatism, a movement which has been pro-Union through thick and thin for hundreds of years, is now reconsidering that position?

The answer would seem to be that the English are feeling put out. When looking at devolution they see the Celtic fringe gaining more autonomy while England gets attempts to fracture it into component parts. When looking at the public finances it sees public money raised in England flowing to the Celts. When looking at Westminster representation it sees English votes counting for less than those of the Scots or Welsh. The English also know that, despite all this subsidy and inequity in favour of the others, the other nations still regard the English as a yoke. A reaction of 'good riddance' is understandable.

English opinion feeds eventually into conservative opinion. That the Conservative party and the conservative commentariat are still almost uniformly unionist despite the English being 56% in favour of Scottish independence is a testament to how loyal to the unionist cause the movement is. Blaming that party and movement for the decline of Unionism is shallow and unimpressive.

Perhaps having been near the top of British politics for so long has meant that people had to look for qualities in Brown to explain his success despite a lack of charisma. I think that substance may have been assumed to fill this gap in our ability to explain a success that was probably more about being in the right place at the right time, both in inheriting a superb economic legacy and coming of political age when Blair led the Labour party to electoral sucess. It seems clearer and clearer he will be a dismal Prime Minister.

Browne leaves BP

From Times Online.

With a share price performance like that Browne is quite an act to follow. BP is promoting from within which can signify a governance problem when a company looks short of ideas but with BP performing so well there seems little reason to worry about the possibility of the company becoming too insular.

Appointing the head of Oil Exploration seems a sensible move if it indicates a renewed focus on the exploration side of the business. With more and more stocks of oil subject to serious security concerns finding new sources is increasingly paramount and any additional focus on this challenge has to be a good thing. The more 'laid back' personal manner seems relatively unimportant by comparison.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Unite Against Thought Crime

"However, Weyman Bennett, of Unite Against Fascism, said: “There should be no difference between a private racist opinion and a public racist opinion.”"

This is possibly the most disgustingly illiberal statement I have ever heard from someone supposedly within the political mainstream.

It is a direct assault on freedom of thought. The idea that private opinions are in any way equivalent to public incitement to racial hatred is a manifesto for witch hunts. This is a non-political figure who never openly stated her beliefs but could be hounded out of her job for being making the wrong political choice in private. To make people's private thoughts and beliefs, no matter how idiotic, a subject for public censure is the final death of meaningful freedom.

This Unite Against Fascism (UAF) position is also rampantly counter productive. It achieves the remarkable in making members of the BNP liberal martyrs, gives their claims to fighting an establishment conspiracy credibility and upsets broad swathes of the public. It looks almost certain to me that UAF is contributing to the rise of the BNP.

Any mainstream bodies affiliated to UAF who believe they are helping to maintain liberal democracy should sever any ties they have to the organisation.

David Cameron is The Evil Lord Xenu

Apparently the Labour Party is taking money from Scientology front groups. Classy. As both this, priceless, clip from South Park and Dave's, rather cautious, analysis demonstrate these are some seriously nutty people. Then again, at least it dilutes Labour's reliance upon the unions.

This is why whoever is responsible for the Labour party's funding scandal deserves serious sanction. By making donating to the Labour party socially disreputable they force the party to either accept donations from those without a reputation to risk or return to being the political arm of the union movement. This is not an enviable choice.


Brilliant quote from Jackart:

"Talking about yesterdays surprise rate rise by the bank of England,

Adam Lent, head of economics at the Trades Union Congress, said the decision "smacks of panic".

Head of Economics at the TUC? A post about as relevant as Lead Ballerina in The Parachute Regiment..."

I think it's possibly worse than irrelevant; Professor of Evolutionary Biology at the Texas Christian University might be a more apt comparison.

Terrorism in Athens

Apparently an RPG round has been fired at the front of the US Embassy in Athens. From the description in the BBC report, "just above the US emblem", it sounds to me like they may have been trying to blow the emblem off.

The big question now is whether this is the work of a successor to the, disbanded, 17 November Marxist group which has attacked US targets in the past, as well as killing British military attache Stephen Saunders, or the work of international Islamist terrorists. It was a wrong call on a similar question that led to Jose Maria Aznar's departure from power after the Madrid bombings. The police are making no predictions so far.

From my, admittedly limited, knowledge of how these things work this sounds like a small scale domestic terrorist group rather than the, rather bloodier, work of Islamist terrorists. Choosing to attack just before six in the morning with a single RPG was never going to produce the gruesome images the Jihadis look for.

Now the task is to find whoever did this. 17 November managed to operate for almost thirty years, from 1975, without a single arrest before their group quickly unravelled in 2002. If this is the start of a similar campaign and the Greeks do a similarly poor job in tracking down those responsible then we'll be hearing stories of terrorist attacks in Greece for some time to come.

Gordon Brown and the Scots

It is pretty widely held that being Scottish is a handicap for Gordon Brown in securing the English vote. This should be at least partially compensated for by enthusing Scottish voters, shouldn't it? That would certainly be the logic in the US where southern John Edwards, for example, was supposed to offer the chance of delivering a Republican safe seat.

However, it seems implausible in Scotland for two reasons. Firstly, most Scottish seats are Labour's to lose. The key Conservative-Labour marginals are in England. Any influence Brown might have in helping to beat the SNP or Liberal Democrats is of less electoral importance than his impact in the South though still significant.

More importantly I have the vague impression that although Scots are often very nationalistic they aren't exactly overly keen on each other. They're a contentious people and express their nationalism more in a disdain for other nationalities, in particular the English, than in some great enthusiasm for their own.

At a time of such nationalistic fervour they also might see a Scot running to be leader of the United Kingdom as something of a turncoat. Especially if he constantly celebrates how British he is in an effort to get on the good side of the English. In fact, I imagine they might find an actual Englishman far less offensive.

I guess we'll see.

Tory Finances

I think the news that the Tories are managing to raise far more money than normal and are in a fine financial position is even better news than the obvious election advantage it gives over a financially moribund Labour party. It is good news because of what it signals about Cameron's approach to leading the Conservative Party.

A new Conservative leader looking at the fortunes of his predecessors might well come to the conclusion that the best course of action is to spend money now as, in all likelihood, the crunch will come under some future leader. When the crunch comes do whatever is necessary to keep the party afloat but nothing more. By contrast, Cameron has the Tories in excellent financial shape. This, like the lengthy policy reviews, makes the charge that Cameron is interested only in short term poll ratings rather than the long term health of the party ring hollow. It is reassuring.

Less importantly, the difference between the financial health of the Labour and Conservative parties is supposed to tell us that Brown can't call a snap election. I doubt he would anyway. Snap elections are a gambling man's game and Brown is far too cautious; that's the lesson of the pre-budget report.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

We need to track this boy down and give him his luckiest boy in America medal right away...

"McMINNVILLE, Tenn. — A former teacher serving an eight-year prison sentence for having sex with a 13-year-old student agreed Wednesday to serve two more years for sending him nude photos of herself."

Globe and Mail.Com

This story really earned its own South Park episode.

Sanctimonious Hippy Garbage Strikes Again

Sue Blackmore is terribly proud. She's given up flying. In fact, she's so proud that she has used a Guardian Unlimited piece to tell us all about how enlightened she is.

"How could someone be that selfless and brave? I knew I couldn't. I spend my life flying around the world giving lectures and going to conferences. It's my job. It's fun, it's prestigious, it's exciting. Anyway, one person's actions are a drop in the ocean to the scale of the problem of climate change, aren't they?

Yet two years on I find I have made that same decision myself. As of the start of 2007 I will make only the trips I've already booked (the US this month and Basel next) and after that I won't be flying for work any more."

How can she be so selfless and brave? How can someone write those two paragraphs without cringing at their own self-satisfaction and retreating from the keyboard?

I think its interesting that she's going to stop "flying for work". So she'll still be joining the EasyJet crowd to Ibiza but conferences in the States are off limits. Hardly puritan self-denial is it?

"This decision, that I once thought impossible, really made itself. I was sitting one day in a huge 747 when, before my lunch, served in a disposable plastic tray, the steward brought me gin in a disposable bottle, tonic in a throwaway can, a plastic cup to drink it out of and, for good measure, a spare plastic cup in which to put the little plastic stirring stick.

I realised that it's not just the fuel the plane uses but the whole crazy, wasteful enterprise of travelling the world."

Firstly, disposable drinks containers on planes probably aren't wasteful. Imagine a plane carrying a full load of non-disposable cutlery, cups etc. The extra weight and space used would add far more to the pollution footprint of the flight.

Secondly, if you don't want a stirrer, cup for stirrer or cup just tell the flight staff. I'm sure they can adjust their service and just give you the can. That kind of step is a little too practical, though, isn't it? Not quite the lifestyle statement you get with giving up flying.

Thirdly, between that Guardian article and her website I count at least four shades of hairdye going into her statement of hippy identity. She hasn't got rid of the purer examples of waste in her life.

Finally, a large part of her career has been parapsychology. Can she acknowledge that, while her "work" trips might be a waste of time and airfuel, other business travel is quite worthwhile?

"There's not only the plastic, the bottled water, and the ludicrous practice of duty-free alcohol, but the luxury hotels I'm lucky enough to be put in, with all those unnecessarily frequently washed sheets and bright white towels."

I've stayed in quite a few decent business hotels recently and they have all been quite clear about the rules: to avoid this kind of waste leave the towels on the floor if you want them washed and on the rack if you don't. Evidently she was too blinded by Guardianista rage to be able to notice such simple measures.

"We all know that, for most journeys, flying puts far more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than would driving somewhere or going there by train."

That's mostly because we're travelling a lot further. Flying is often, per mile, pretty efficient increasingly as high oil prices create a powerful incentive for airlines to increase efficiency. As such, this isn't waste but a price we pay for seeing new countries and new people.

It is telling that she gives no thought, in her article, to the benefit side of the cost/benefit calculation of flying. First, many flights are a chance for people to experience different cultures and peoples. The Guardian has become the paper of the modern little Englander mentality unwilling to see the value of people getting out in the world. Sure, some flights don't achieve this objective but the pure party trip to a hot country to get drunk is a caricature. Most will, at least to some extent, come home with a better understanding of how things are outside Britain and will be better people for it.

Second, conferences, whether academic, political or business, are important in enabling an international dialogue on important issues. The most likely outcome of more British people adopting Blackmore's decision to "choose conferences closer to home" is that more people will have to fly from foreign countries; no decrease in flying or emissions. If this movement is taken up worldwide it will mean people from different nations no longer talking, face to face, with each other. Do we really want people from different parts of the world talking to each other less?

This article was a fine example of what is wrong with the modern environmental movement.

Stumbling and Mumbling on the Undeserving Poor

Stumbling and Mumbling has stumbled across Celebrity Big Brother and is so alarmed by the insult to Darwin that is Jackiey Budden that he's calling for global redistribution. After all, none of us 'earned' being English so why do we deserve the wealth that comes with it? From reading his account she does sound a truly awful woman but that doesn't necessarily create a case for redistribution.

This is an application of the principle of moral luck which avoids the thorny question of free will. However, it still has to answer to the question of whether the proposed redistribution can be justified on efficiency grounds. International redistribution is sometimes effective but often desperately ineffective or actively counterproductive. Spending within our own borders is far easier to control and direct. Bauer's criticisms of the effects of foreign aid imply that there are limits on the extent to which our money can improve the lives of those in foreign countries. Would we be just as likely to waste our money encouraging Third World corruption as we would looking after people like Jackiey Budden?

We then return to the idea of the state as a social contract. For all Jackiey Budden's awfulness she is a party to that contract and is subject to the accompanying laws. If her awfulness manifests itself as something beyond the pale, something criminal, she can be punished. In return for setting people these basic standards we guarantee them a material standard of living. As such a contract cannot be enforced on those living abroad they may be less deserving despite being better people.

I think that the problem of Jackiey Budden is better solved via the idea floated by Dwight Lee on TCS Daily. Allow people to sell their citizenship and it seems close to certain that someone who is so underutilising the advantages of being British will wind up selling in a fit of shallowness. We could trade her for a more productive foreigner.

Sir John Fielding and Guantanamo

Gracchi offers a review of new work by Professor John Beattie on Sir John Fielding's contribution to the British justice system and the contemporary response to the challenge his changes posed to liberty.

"Its interesting as a last thought to reflect upon what this says about our current system- the Prime Minister and Head of the Metropolitan Police (chief police officer in the UK) continually tell us that we see new threats and need new ways to prosecute and police those threats. It may be that at the same time, just as in the eighteenth century, we as private citizens and therefore potential defendents need new rights to counter new prosecutions- perhaps in matters like data protection you can already see both trends taking place, government now holds a great deal more information about us and we now have rights to see that information."

I think that the emphasis on new rights here is important. Too often people are distinctly unimaginative in these debates and tend to resolve the question down to old rights versus new threats. The reality is often that the old liberties are no longer useful or appropriate in changing circumstances and this is the reason they are no longer protecting the vulnerable from overzealous attempts to confront new threats.

Guantanamo seems a prime example. A common refrain is that they should be afforded the protections of the Geneva Protocols. However, these protocols were never designed to be granted to anyone the military happened to pick up. A few of the conditions placed upon gaining Geneva protection:

  • That of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates.

  • That of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance (there are limited exceptions to this among countries who observe the 1977 Protocol I).

  • That of carrying arms openly

  • That of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

Geneva protection is, therefore, the reward to staying within the social contract which is the rules of war. If it is granted to those who pay no heed to its laws then that social contract can be expected to break down.

Perhaps more convincingly for those who want to see extra protection for inmates there is little imperative to quickly try and release those captured on the field of battle. This is for fairly obvious practical reasons; do you think we could have assembled a case against many of the PoWs we held during WW2? The basic environment required for evidence gathering is not present. We also often do not have the right to try them merely for being the soldiers of our enemy or committing crimes in foreign countries.

Instead Prisoners of War are prosecuted or released at the end of the war (except in exchange situations but these are matters of diplomacy rather than law). However, this is clearly not going to be a humane solution in a War on Terror which is unlikely to end so neatly. Prisoner of War status could well be a recipe for indefinite detention for many of those captured.

Equally, domestic law cannot apply to those at Guantanamo because, although they are not Prisoners of War, the same restrictions on the ability to gather evidence and prosecute a trial are present. Many of these people, under the standard of domestic law, should not be held but it is utterly unrealistic to hold a state fighting a war and dealing with foreign enemies to the same standard it is expected to afford its own citizens. This is neither true to the historical norm nor conducive to the slightest military efficacy.

What is clearly needed is some new liberties which we grant to those who do not deserve the honour of the status of Prisoners of War but do deserve some basic human dignity. The failure of the Bush administration, as I have noted before, is that it has made no attempt at creating new liberties but has, instead, ignored the problem. Those who condemn the Bush administration for its record on foreign prisoners should not pretend that its failure has been to defend existing liberties but that it has not done the work of an enlightened government in defining new ones.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

You think you're not a Little Englander and then... come across a tool to plot the countries you've visited via Marginal Revolution and realise just how insular you are.

It was while I was in Vancouver for Worlds that I realised that it was the first time I'd seen the Pacific (my trip to Russia was to Lake Baikal and my trip to China to Beijing); it's a big ocean to miss in twenty three years. But look, I still haven't even made it below the equator. I might as well write "Here be Dragons" on Latin America and Africa. How pathetic!

Create your own Visited Countries Map

I think things will improve as I get older but at the moment even my European coverage is looking a bit shaky. How dissapointing.

A really bad reason to vote Labour

Dave 'Red Dave' Cole is enthused by Alistair Darling's promise to better enforce the minimum wage. Three things to note:

Firstly, here's Greg Mankiw with a quick round up of the strong evidence showing that the minimum wage depresses employment. Dave's response to this will be simple: "But unemployment is low". This rather misses the point that the minimum wage will do its worst in times of economic misfortune and among a vulnerable minority of the unskilled (witness the Banlieue's in France) and that its effect can, in the short term, be masked by wider changes in our economic fortunes (i.e. the beautiful economy the Tories left Labour). Both theory and practice suggest that the outcome of setting or increasing a minimum wage is to force people to live unemployed, supported by the state, instead of getting on the ladder and providing some share of their own income.

Secondly, I think that the Labour party, which takes crowds of unpaid interns to do what would, in other circumstances, be described as "work", might want to take a look at its own policies before starting a crackdown.

Finally, to respond directly to Dave's point that we can avoid "the days under the Tories when it was perfectly acceptable for people to have to work for a pound an hour". This is akin to someone from Saudi Arabia saying that adultery is perfectly acceptable in the West. It isn't but we don't ban everything that isn't perfectly acceptable if the result of a ban will be illiberal and/or counterproductive. Under the Tories few people would have worked for under a pound an hour because they could usually make more through claiming benefits. Equally, there isn't an unlimited supply of people willing to work for a pound an hour and, therefore, the idea that the minimum wage is the only thing keeping people's wages above one pound an hour is absurd; even unskilled labour is competed for by employers to a certain extent.

In the end, the minimum wage should be a mechanism to ensure greater returns to low paid work because we want these people to be better off. We can either do this by making their labour artificially expensive, the minimum wage, which punishes those employers who employ the unskilled and therefore hurts employment of those we most want to be keeping in work, or we can spread the cost more widely through a negative income tax of some kind.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Where are all the young Conservatives coming from?

There is a very interesting post over on ConservativeHome's CF Diary (for some reason the thing isn't credited so I have no idea who writes it; identify yourself if you read this) about an increasing conservatism among the young. It cites a recent survey for the Scouts Association and an older one for Bliss Magazine and the Social Attitudes survey of 2004 both of which highlighted what appears to be conservative attitudes. I would add this 2003 LSE study, for that year's Social Attitude's study, which found young people less willing to pay for increased taxes to secure higher spending.

Despite having now left university I am still, at 23, comfortably in the Conservative Future age range and, as such, feel entitled to comment on what might be driving an increased conservatism among younger people.

1) A Decline in the Social Stigma attached to Conservatism

I think that the social stigma attached to being an evil, heartless, Tory is more important to young people. Without careers and the like to hang their social status on young people are generally more careful about anything which might endanger their hard won social standing. There would seem to be a few factors working to undermine the social stigma around conservatism.

Firstly, any ideology which is very electorally successful, as the social democrats are at the moment, will necessarily be the party of a lot of voters and these voters will often be those that young people think little of; to look at the Scouts Association survey that would be the likes of Pete Doherty and other assorted trendies of the sort that backed Blair in 97. Related to this is that the socialists can no longer sustain the idealism of opposition and have had to do unpopular things, such as the Iraq war, and now are forced to argue at the realist level of conservatives.

Secondly, David Cameron is clearly doing good work in making the party sound less miserly and grouchy. Although the process of young people becoming more positive about conservatism was clearly ongoing before he took over it seems almost certain he has enabled it to progress more easily with the changes he has made and is making to the Conservative Party. It seems reasonable to expect that young people are generally less certain of their ideological bearings (apart from a small minority who are politically active) and, as such, addressing a broader range of issues than the traditional conservative battlegrounds has to be helpful in making the party seem more relevant.

Thirdly, as conservatism is admitting defeat on "think of the children" social issues it becomes more palatable to young people. Young people don't necessarily disagree with socially conservative attitudes on these things, witness their relatively pro-life position on abortion on demand, but they tend to regard those who push social conservatism as either patronising or vaguely crazed; they expect these views to be personal and largely private. They then worry that if they are openly conservative they will be regarded as equally patronising or crazed. A similar trend is at work in the wider electorate but it is more pronounced among young people.

2) Social Democracy is No Longer a New and Ideological Movement

Those born in the post war generation grew up in an era with a popular memory of when the debate had been Conservative-Liberal and the socialist challenge from Labour was still something new and exciting. There was a genuine ex ante hope that it might be possible to, through the beneficent actions of an enlightened state, create a society shorn of inequality, misery and with a much higher standard of living for all. This didn't work out.

First, the revolutionary movement associated with socialism descended into atrocity and madness. Second, the Social Democratic states failed to guarantee the material wellbeing and security they had promised. The conservative backlash, Reagan in the States and Thatcher here, proved more successful in reversing national declines than even its supporters can have hoped. While the Thatcher/Reagan successes could be disputed by the socialists, and still are, socialists were reduced to arguing about records and empirics rather than emotively contrasting hope with fearful decline.

While those who were young when the socialist movement was still full of promise still see the socialist cause as essentially youthful and hopeful it now has to fight a rather more even fight with conservatism among the contemporary young who will not give it the benefit of the doubt.

3) The expanding Conservative Movement gives Conservatives more to Do while Young

Left wing young people have always had plenty to do politically. They will start protesting from a young age; if their parents are left wing then almost from birth. Right wingers have relatively few ways to express their conservatism. Conservative Future and its predecessors have primarily been social circles, except at election time, and probably not a circle that will often appeal outside the ambitious. Right wing protests are rare and usually comparatively poorly attended.

This made the sacrifice of facing the social stigma of being a conservative appear rather pointless for many who might have been tempted by conservatism. It has started to be eroded by the new media, such as blogs, which allow young conservatives to participate on their own terms in adult political dialogue and an increased ease in combining conservatism with publicly caring about other issues such as humanitarian crises and the environment.

4) Exposure to Britain's New Underclass

Ann Widdecombe, in a quote near the end of the Telegraph article, questions the results of the survey for the Scout's Association on the grounds that she has seen "increasing disaffection among young people who are growing up without aspirations". Of course, the Scouts survey, which looked at majority attitudes, and Ann Widdecombe's experience are not contradictory and hint at a reality of a majority of fairly well rounded young people and a minority with very serious problems.

Now, while an adult will be segregated away from the underclass of the materially and socially deprived, both at work and at play, comprehensive schooling means that young Middle England meets them everyday. This contact makes it more obvious that something is going wrong beyond a lack of economic wealth and opportunity. Troubled children at my school were growing up with the same access to education as I was and with all of the opportunity afforded by living in rich Hertfordshire. This makes it more obvious that the kinds of causes conservative analyses like Iain Duncan Smith's report discuss, family breakdown and the other such issues, are the more numerically important causes of social deprivation.

What it is important to note is that all of these changes are incomplete, most young people are still broadly left wing, and some can be reversed. The rise of the Young Tory is neither complete nor certain. However, there is good reason to hope that the party and movement can continue to gain in support across the age range. Particularly if conservatives can continue to address the social causes of deprivation, give young people plenty of opportunities to get involved and avoid hectoring social conservatism. Also, particularly if the social democrats continue to sound so nostalgic for a fifties golden age which really existed only in their imagination and certainly has no hold on the memory of the young.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Celebrity Madness

Credit where credit is due. This article from CommentisFree is genuinely amusing with this excerpt scarily plausible:

"If George Clooney called a globally televised press conference, then plucked out two of his eyelashes and announced he would donate them free of charge to the first viewer to turn round and murder their entire family, thousands would perish. Read that again. It is a fact."

I don't actually think people are getting more stupid. The past contains the Children's Crusade, massed apocalypse cults and eunuchs all of which I think are probably almost as idiotic as Heat.

The change that has come with rising incomes is a rapid decline in the extent to which working class imaginations spend most of their time and energy focussed upon bread and butter issues which require a certain common sense. Rising leisure time and jobs which are not as physically exhausting free the common man to indulge his inner idiot. Instead of moments of idiocy being a vocation for minorities like eunuchs or parents indulging their children's crusading fervour they can be undertaken by all in their spare time.

Also, I think feminism, socialism and the other liberation movements have induced something of an internal relativism which means that only at the extremes of reality TV can we call someone as stupid as a spade as stupid as a spade. Jordan isn't a smart enterpriser; she's ironically somewhat similar to a eunuch in that she has mutilated herself for pecuniary gain. Little Britain isn't clever and witty; it's an unimaginative caricature of Python. The Harry Potter series are children's books and adults reading them are lazy. Elitism is the instinct that allows us to make these simple but important judgements and the gratuitously anti-elitist movements of the twentieth century are responsible for making us guilty about expressing them.

If my wings should fail me...

It may sound morose but I have a pretty good idea of how I'd like my own funeral to play out. This clip illustrates it pretty perfectly.

Of course, I don't need a sword or the other old English paraphenalia and lighting the boat on fire with flaming arrows may require specialists who are hard to come by but the general idea of being put on a boat which is then lit on fire and floated out to sea is very appealing. The Cornish coast is probably the best for this purpose thanks to its ruggedness.

Before this film came out my old plan was to be burned on a pyre with coins on my eyes as the various heroes are in Troy but the clip above seems far more classy and doesn't leave the issue of ashes.

Unfortunately, it appears that burning people in the open air after they are dead is illegal. Hopefully the Sikhs and Hindus will manage to get this ban removed and make my plan possible. If not perhaps I'll be okay anyway what with my burning not taking place on land.

Finally, a quick review of the film. It is very well directed with an excellent soundtrack and some epic vistas to keep the rather simple story interesting. It is quite different to the old mythical and Wagnerian Tristan and Isolde tales but that works quite well. The major weakness is that the lead spends too much time wearing his sulky face and, therefore, struggles to overcome the challenge of portraying love almost at first sight. I think the population of young British actors may have contained someone more suitable, with a more expressive face in particular.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

There's always a bigger fish...

...which deserves an ASBO.

Mr. Eugenides is adding to his sphere of influence. It used to be that he was the 'go-to guy' for Comment is Free bashing. Now he informs us of the Scottish Parliament's increasingly dismal output.

The latest is a ban on live bait for anglers. Now, a ban on angling is, if utterly illiberal and rather philosophically questionable, at least somewhat defensible in terms of preventing animal suffering which is not strictly necessary. However, clearly the act of placing hooks in fishes isn't what is being targetted here. Rather, the problem is setting a fish up to be eaten by another fish. However, in terms of sheer numbers it seems pretty certain that far more fish are made prey independently by carnivorous fish than are made prey by human intervention; this is an entirely natural process.

The usual separation of natural animal carnivores and unnecessary human eating can't really be made here as we are not the ones doing the eating but are merely facilitating a fish eating another. The only "unnatural" event is when the pike is removed from the water following its meal but this is little different to other forms of angling.

Surely the answer, if you have a problem with fish lower down the food chain being eaten by fish further up the food chain is some kind of mass pike detoothing programme?