Tuesday, January 20, 2004


I have decided to move over to Typepad.

You can find the new blog here. I would ask everyone who has been kind enough to link to me to please update your blogrolls with the new url, or you can just use internetcommentator.com which should forward to the new address within the next 24 hours.

Monday, January 19, 2004


What is Andrew Sullivan on about?, discussing Pres. Bush's Gray-Davis-like quasi-amnesty for illegal immigrants:

"The hard right is dismayed that he is showing compassion toward illegal immigrants"

Surely he knows better than that? The "hard right" may well be "dismayed" but I bet you'll find that opposition to this move extends way beyond the "hard right".

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Nationalism and Cosmopolitanism

A few discussions about nationalism on Slugger got me thinking about a curious fact. In Northern Ireland there is a kind of shorthand for the range of political views in each "community". For catholics, the moderate strand is described as "Nationalist" while "Republican" connotes the more extreme. For protestants, "Loyalist" describes the extreme element and "Unionist", the moderate. The topic under discussion was the relationship between Nationalism in general and multiculturalism or cosmopolitanism. The logic of nationalism is to promote the interest of one collective culture over the interests of other cultures and the interests of individuals. Anyone who claims to be a cosmopolitan nationalist is axiomatically confused. Clarity on this will be provided when the interests of cosmopolitanism and nationalism collide and this person is forced to choose. One of these areas is immigration.

The curious fact is that, at least theoretically, it is the "extreme" political view of the catholic community and the "moderate" political view of the protestant community which is better placed philosophically to deal with issues relating to immigration and other cultures.

The nominally republican party, SF, is, as it happens, also extreme nationalist in practice - its success over the SDLP is surely due to its perception as a more effective advocate for its community - yet in theory the purpose of republicanism is to promote a United Ireland suitable for those of both communities or none. Meanwhile, the "moderate" protestant political view is, in practice, a kind of British nationalism, retention of the union is often promoted as a cultural, as opposed to utilitarian, imperative. However a "purer" Unionism which simply promoted retention of the union in a culturally neutral manner - I think this is what Trimble was (ineptly) trying to get at when he crudely slandered the Republic of Ireland as "monocultural" - is perfectly consistent with cosmopolitanism.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Tepid Terra

Great article by Melanie Phillips on The global warming fraud, (via Alex Singleton)

"Far from being proved, the claim of man-made global warming is a global fraud. Instead of being drawn from observable facts, it is based on computer modelling which churns out wholly artificial — and eminently manipulable — visions of the world.

Computers can only process the information fed into them. This is an inadequate procedure, not least because climate change is affected by billions of variables which are beyond any computer programme. The sea level ‘rise’, for instance, omits the full influence of certain crucial natural meteorological changes. And if the disaster scenarios of global warming are fed into the computer as a premise, it is hardly surprising that it will then ‘predict’ the disappearance of species as a consequence.

In other words, if you feed rubbish into a computer, you get rubbish out."

Unintentional Anarcho-Capitalism Advocacy

I know it's meant as a joke but: What a great idea!


Harsh words from Abiola for Mars dreamers:

"Any so-called advocate of small government who is excited by this Mars nonsense ought to turn in his conservative/libertarian credentials and go find some other political home to call his own. Manned space-flight on the government dime, in any incarnation, is a waste of money, of essentially no lasting scientific value, and a trip to either the moon or Mars would be especially wasteful."

I have to (reluctantly) agree. There's nothing to stop private concerns from getting involved with manned space flight, though I'd say it would take the invention of a new propulsion method to make it profitable.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Music for nothing, Books for free

Natalie Solent has an interesting piece about free downloads of books, author Eric Flint notes that this is no different to friends lending books to one another, both of which can help increase readership. Natalie is concerned that once "bad things" (unauthorised copying or sharing of intellectual property) become convenient, it is a short step to this becoming accepted custom.

Even though I don't generally distinguish between physical property and intellectual property I think it is important to retain the distinction between "theft" of either. If you steal my car, I am down one car. If you "steal" my novel/song by downloading or copying it, I still have it. I am just down one potential sale of an "authorised" copy of it.

How bad the latter "theft" is depends on the level of negative effect on potential sales. It is by no means certain that potential sales are affected negatively in all cases. One shouldn't forget either, that production and sale of intellectual property is no less susceptible to market forces than any other activity. If the "bad thing" does become accepted custom, reducing or reorientating revenue, then a market response is likely from artists.

Natalie also makes the classic error of assuming that because one can't imagine something, it is improbable and that everyone else necessarily shares her own preferred reading method:

"At the moment I'd far rather have a book-sized chunk of words as a book than a download. I don't even know what you do with a download. Read it online? Hurts the eyes, or the neck, and for many people you have to sit at a desk to do it. Print it out? Takes a week and probably costs the price of the book in ink and paper. How much nicer to have a snuggy little book that you can take to bed with you. But come the day of the utterly portable 4" x 6" x ½" hand-held computer with a zero-glare screen, ...- then I dunno, mate, I dunno"

You know: the day of the hand-held computer with a zero glare screen on which you can comfortably read books, snuggled up in bed or not, is already here.

I am a big fan of e-books, my only gripe is that so few books are published this way. I would rather buy a book to download to my Clie UX-50 than the paper version. The big advantage of e-books is that, as with the mp3 player, one's pocket can contain an entire library. This is an especial advantage if you find yourself waiting somewhere with "time to kill". A Sony Clie, Palm Pilot or Pocket PC can contain, not only the book you are currently reading, but the next few and, courtesy of AvantGo, several newspapers and blogs too.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Two and a half horse race?

Looks like I spoke too soon. Manchester United's frustrating home draw with Newcastle United sees their advantage over Arsenal at the top of the table reduced to a solitary point.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Miller's Crossing

Ciaran is really annoyed at Liam Miller for signing a pre-contract agreement this week which will take the 22 yr old Irish midfielder to Old Trafford in the summer. His current club, Celtic, won't receive a penny.

I think Ciaran would do well to direct his ire to the club and not the player. It matters little whether the player was offered £11,000 per week, as the Irish Independent claims (pro-United spinning according to Ciaran) or the exact same terms as his deal with Manchester United, apparently £20,000. The fact is, Celtic's offer was only made with the knowledge of United's interest.

This has nothing to do with the player's "loyalty" (and by the way: Miller's nationality has nothing at all to do with it). A football player's first loyalty has to be to himself, his family and his career. Loyalty to a club is very important, but it is secondary and it must be reciprocated. There is no treachery in Miller agreeing to sign for United. He had been put in that position by Celtic who were quite happy for the, now, first team regular to be paid a mere £1,000 a week and let his contract wind down.

They could have shown him a bit more "loyalty" and at the same time protect one of their "assets" by offering a him longer term contract earlier. Instead they took a gamble and assumed he would just sign a new deal when his contract ran out. This was short-sighted. Maybe they wanted to save themselves a few bob on his wages or maybe they thought he wouldn't make it as a first team player. Either way, they hardly showed him much "loyalty".

Friday, January 09, 2004

Czech Charades

"My Czech phrase book inexplicably did not include 'you have an animal on the loose' in it"

William Sjostrom was too modest earlier.

Sullivan's been HD-winked

Andrew Sullivan is heartened by the following statement by leading Democrat presidential contender, Howard Dean:

"From a religious point of view, if God had thought homosexuality is a sin, he would not have created gay people"

I think Andrew has allowed himself be blinded to the fatuousness of this statement because, on this issue if nothing else, he wants Dean to be "on his side". But really, what kind of argument is it:

"If God thought X is a sin, he would not have created people who do X".

This is the acme of circular arguments. According to this credo, nothing which happens can be a sin, as "If God let it happen, it's ok".

Andrew thinks this is better than "a non-controversial mealy-mouthed defense of civil unions". But I can't see the difference: This is "a defense of civil unions", and check this for "non-controversial, mealymouthed", from the WaPo article linked to:

"Dean said he does not consider homosexuality a sin but nonetheless opposes gay marriage"

It is hardly controversial for an East Coast Liberal to state that he doesn't consider homosexuality to be a sin. This statement of Dean's is just a typical politician's weaselly straddle. With his ersatz "religious justification" Dean gets to look religious, compassionate and "Pro-Gay" - if he's fooled someone as smart as Andrew Sullivan, he can probably fool plenty more - and he still gets to oppose Gay Marriage.

[For what it's worth, I'm a committed, though non proselytising, atheist and have come to the conclusion that there is no justification for the state refusing to recognise Gay Marriages]

Thursday, January 08, 2004

It's all about the rocks

Dublin Gal cheers the Irish army for an intervention in Liberia, freeing 35 Liberian civilians who had been abducted and raped. However, William can see the sinister side of this "Rabid Irish Imperialism", noting astutely the absence of Irish "peace-keeping" troops in other troubled areas which, by a curious coincidence, don't have any diamonds!

Never mind "No Blood for Oil!", what about: "No Liberation of Liberians for Diamonds!"


In the comments of the post below, John complains:

"What I want to know is, why do you care about the Premiership? It's so dull. The European Cup is the only trophy that should matter as far as I'm concerned "

I thought I'd post my reply here as it was getting a bit long:

The European trophy is certainly prestigious. I would even go as far as to argue that a Champions League winners medal is a higher honour than a World cup winners medal. It is a lot harder to predict who the winners will be - although you'd hardly go broke betting on Real Madrid each year - so there may be some excitement there. That said, there are a lot of awful, meaningless, poorly attended matches during the group stages. It is still only a cup competition, perhaps if it evolved into a league it might be different, but you can't beat the long slog of a league programme.

I can't agree that the Premiership is "dull". Of course, following it tends to be a lot more satisfying for a Manchester United fan than for those of other clubs. There are undoubtedly too many clubs in the Premiership but it is much more exciting than any other European league bar Spain.

Have you ever managed to sit through a Serie A match, a whole 90 minutes of elegant defending, without falling asleep? Hey: it's Reggina 0, Chievo 0, didn't see that one coming. Then a shock result as Bologna and Siena play out a thrilling goalless draw. Meanwhile, reports are coming in of a goal-fest over at Lecce as the champions, free-scoring Juventus, bang in a whopping one goal to equalise Lecce's first half goal rush of one goal.

There is also, at the moment, a very congested middle, a mere 12 points separate Charlton, in 4th place, which would see them qualify for the champions league, and Portsmouth in the 18th place, which would relegate them. If you think that sounds a lot, you might note that 11 points separate Charlton from the team immediately above them, Chelsea.

12 points is just 4 wins. If it stays as tight as this, every game counts. For all the teams hitherto content to affirm their mid-table-respectability status, contesting matches of no consequence, and a few who might have expected a title tilt there is now the very real prospect of glory and financial reward via European qualification or misery and possible financial ruin via relegation. For all 16 of them it's a veritable Ancient Chinese Curse: Interesting times indeed.

The Brazilian Bob Dylan

Nelson reworks one of the old grouch's tunes for the 21st century.

Still a three horse race?

I wonder.

I had a feeling before Christmas that the Premiership title race was slipping away from Chelsea and wondered whether, despite their continuing unbeaten run, Arsenal were going a bit stale. I didn't dare mention it but, in the light of Manchester United's 2-1 victory at Bolton while the Gunners were held at Everton, Chelsea losing at home to Liverpool, and probably tempting fate, I wonder if United's newly acquired 3 point margin at the top will only increase in the next few weeks.

Words you never thought you'd read...

Dick O'Brien:

"Frank McGahon has more business being on the opinion pages of the Irish Times than Mark Steyn does."

For once, I'm lost for words!

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Sticking up for Steyn

Dick is not at all impressed with Mark Steyn, in fact he's so annoyed with the scribe's latest piece, on why "Events" don't just happen, that he makes the remarkable claim that..

"..Steyn rarely produces work worth publishing"

Now, it will come as no surprise to anyone vaguely familiar with this blog that I'm a huge fan of Steyn. I don't agree with everything he writes - for instance, I think he's wrong on Gay Marriage and I also think he overstates the Islamification of Europe - but his often hilarious, never pompous, Op-Ed pieces put pretty much every other commentator in the shade in style, humour and, as it turns out, accuracy of predictions.

I know better than to think I can persuade Dick of the merits of Steyn's substantive argument. For one, while I share Steyn's opposition to the welfare state from first principles, Dick apparently supports it implicitly supports it explicitly. However, I would like to try and persuade Dick that his annoyance with the Irish Times for hiring Steyn, contrary to his disclaimer, is because he disagrees with Steyn's opinions.

In the course of his post, Dick attacks Steyn's opinions about big government, organised labour and the welfare state and complains when Steyn brackets China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and France as displaying insufficient liberty and self-reliance. Despite the fact that Steyn distinguishes between each country and makes clear that each fails its citizens in a different way, Dick is keen to attribute "clumsy moral equivalence" to Steyn. Yet all of these are opinions, with which Dick disagrees.

So, Dick: by all means "fisk" Mark Steyn. Please don't overreach in claiming he is unsuitable for publication.

What about Vlad?

Jon points to a curious piece by Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds on income inequality. I am very much against equality initiatives and I'm opposed to any kind of concentration on income inequality or relative poverty as I think they are ultimately rhetorical conceits which say little about the underlying problem: If I earn €20,000 a year and you earn €120,000 we have an "income inequality" of €100,000. If I earn €100,000 and you earn €1,000,000, our income inequality has rocketed up to €900,000 but I am patently better off.

I say "curious" because Glenn isn't exactly arguing against income inequality but he has an important caveat: it is wrong for individuals to become so super-rich that, like George Soros, they interfere with the political process. Professor Reynolds is normally astute but this is just plain wrong. To illustrate why, forget about Soros and Bush and look over to Russia. Is not Glenn's argument identical to Putin's?

One Step Away From Common Wisdom

Better late than never: How could I miss The People's Blog's forthright reaction to Saddam's capture which, while graciously conceding that

"President Saddam Hussein was no Mother Theresa",

notes that

"The timing is also suspicious. The third part of the American propaganda flick Lord of the Rings premiers this week. Most likely Saddam's been held for months, (since when did a DNA test take hours?), and intentionally released now to increase the psychological effect. With the "arrest" of Saddam fresh in mind as audiences watch this racist allegory of Middle East affairs, the association between "evil" and Saddam Hussein will be complete and unerasable."

and reminding us

"Some readers claim that I have mixed up east and west here. I won't even honor that accusation with a reply. This is just another example of the pro-American thought police in action. Take one step away from common wisdom and suddenly there are lots of "factual errors" in your piece. It's one of their favourite tactics."

Right on, Comrade Medvedsilnyn!

Nigerian Dilemma

Interesting post by Abiola Lapite on Nigeria's ethnic conflict. Of course, one can't ignore the poisonous legacy of LSE-taught Marxism in Africa's recent history but he makes a persuasive case that the arbitrary delineation of the borders of African countries in general and Nigeria in particular which ignored extant ethnic groups is the significant contributing factor to that continent's woes.

"The real key to Africa's problems.. is ethnicity. Hardly any of Africa's states are drawn along ethnic lines, and the ethnic tensions that have resulted as various groups struggled for power after the Europeans pulled out have led to coups, wars and other manifestations of instability... ..Nigeria, that creation of Frederick Lugard's imagination, arbitrarily divides the Yoruba within its borders from those in Benin and Togo, while the border between Niger and Nigeria splits the Hausa-Fulani along another artificial line...What makes Nigeria's difficulties worse is that there is no one group that clearly outnumbers the rest; instead there are three groups with a rough parity of numbers - the Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo - meaning that there is no possibility that a stable equilibrium will be reached, as whenever any two groups gang up to seize power at the expense of the third, eventually one of the two becomes so disaffected by its share of the spoils that it either defects to ally itself with the previously excluded third, or is itself kicked out and replaced by the third party. In such an environment any act of self-aggrandizement by a member of one's own group at the public expense is easily rationalized away as 'scoring one for the team', the (not entirely unreasonable) thinking being 'If one of our guys hadn't done the looting, one of the other group's members surely would have.'"

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

What is IQ good for?

The other day, ennui, combined with curiosity, led me to accept the invitation of a popup window to take an online IQ test. Modesty prevents me from revealing my score but I was sufficiently flattered to attempt two other online tests which subsequently endorsed the first score.

I don't deny that I felt a mild boost, yet on reflection my initial impression, that IQ tests primarily measure the ability to do IQ tests, was hardly negated. I was struck by how the tests appeared to favour a particularly "male", systemising way of thinking: It is understandable how some of those with aspergers syndrome or autism have very high IQ scores. It is hard to see how a facility with spatial awareness or an ability to recognise patterns or sequences really amounts to all that much outside of a narrow range of tasks.

I have been involved in a few debates recently over on Samizdata. I really don't want to rehash it all here (you can read it all over there) but one of the core assumptions of those with whom I disagree is that a high average IQ is a "cause" rather than an "effect" and that a high average IQ society is not only desirable but an imperative. This has always seemed to me to be an extremely tenuous assertion. After all, would you really hire Carol Vordeman to plaster your house? If you want someone to design your house, you could do worse than ask me but it would be a very foolish client who wished to expand my services to include actually building the thing with my own hands (let's just say I'm more of a GOTDIFY than a DIY type of person).

So it was with a, perhaps slightly perverse, sense of national pride that I noted before Christmas that Ireland has one of the lowest average IQ levels in Europe at 93.

Out of 50 countries we came 33rd. Below Romania! Meanwhile, the only superpower, USA, falls outside the top 20 with 98.

Pahk the Kah

Striking suggestion from Colby on a possible "late-arriving saviour" for the Democrats.

Surely not the definitive Boston Brahmin?

Monday, January 05, 2004


It seems that retiring from blogging is all the rage at the moment. Following Emily's announcement of a blogging pause, (promptly recinded) Cinderella Bloggerfeller is on hiatus for 2004. God of the Machine offers a moving Op-bituary

I will miss the inelegantly monikered commentator but it least it gives me an opportunity to invent some even uglier words like Sabbloggatical, Diaretirement and Op-bituary!

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Whaddya Know?

I made Samizdata's slogan of the day!

Thanks Perry!

Friday, January 02, 2004


Seems to be some problems with Blogger???

UPDATE: Fixed now.

Thursday, January 01, 2004


Happy New Year, everyone!