Friday, November 28, 2003


Courtesy of Google, Here's the paper Conor links to below converted to HTML


This paper by Edmund Shanahan analyses the history of what's now Northern Ireland in terms of libertarian principles (property rights, freedom of thought and expression etc.) He also contextualises the 1998 Belfast Agreement from a similar perspective. He draws an interesting parallel in terms of the old libertarian traditions common to both Ulster Presbyterianiam and to Irish Brehon law (predating the twelfth century occupation).

Whither the GFA?

Carrie/Stella Marie is optimistic about the future for democracy in Northern Ireland in the light of the predictable success of the "purists" of SF and DUP over the "compromisers" of the SDLP and the UUP. She is quite correct to note:

"Perhaps I am naive but shouldn't the GFA be able to work no matter who is elected? Was it really written for the UUP and SDLP alone?"

..and I think both those parties suffered because they complacently took that for granted. However I wouldn't share her optimism and that's because of the agendas of SF and the DUP. It is in the DUP's interest to show that the GFA cannot work. Indeed it could be argued that they have a mandate not to work the agreement. It is also in SF's interest, if not for the agreement to fail, to show that "Unionists aren't really serious about sharing power with nationalists". This is a line peddled consistently by SF over the last few years, particularly by Martin McGuinness. It may well become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The aim of the SDLP and the UUP was to work the agreement and have some semblance of devolved local government. Neither SF or the DUP have this aim. The DUP are explicit in opposing the agreement and by definition the Local Assembly government. Direct rule by London would suit them fine.

SF are pro-agreement and are prepared to work the assembly but it is simply a means to an end for them. If their "end" of progress towards a United Ireland is served better by illustrating the intransigence they assert is endemic to Unionism well let that be so.

In a strange way, though their goals are diamettrically opposed, both SF and the DUP serve each other's interests. These interests do not coincide with the working of the agreement or the assembly.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Most Oppressed People Ever

Checking by the Shamrockshire Eagle today, I came across a particularly acute example of MOPE syndrome. Anyone who doubted the myopic and parochial insularity endemic to extreme Irish Nationalism would be well advised to read Paul Dunne's piece about English Settlers and the Holocaust:

"I have noticed that some English settlers in Ireland seem to have a regular bee in their bonnet about the Germans and the Jews, in particular the treatment of the Jews by the Germans in the Second World War; that is to say, the Holocaust.

Yes, that "treatment" was awful wasn't it?

Is it not odd, that? Wouldn't you think the English in Ireland would have just the teeniest bit of guilt on their own behalf, perhaps even be too embarrassed to start ranting about the mote in their neighbour's eye, and they strutting about with a beam in their own?

I wonder where this is heading?

"Mass graves for Jews? What about mass graves for Irish? Victims of hunger or disease, bellies bloated from starvation, mouths stained green from trying to live on grass, they were heaped by the hundreds into unmarked common graves and covered over with soil, those graves to be trampled by the herds of cattle their clearance made way for; to be explained away as the result of a "natural disaster"; before long, simply to be forgotten. Certainly, there's nary a thought for them from our "guests".

Yes, the Famine was exactly the same as the Holocaust. The Brits cleverly lured Ireland into potato-dependency and then secretly introduced the potato blight so that the Irish would starve to death. You'd have to admit, this genocide plan was a rather cumbersome, why not just line everybody up against a wall and shoot them? What was especially sinister about the plan was the way the Brits, across the sea, forced the Irish on the ground, who could see the starvation all around, not to help their brethren. Well, coercion must have been used? Otherwise it is hard to see how all of our ancestors would just stand around and do nothing while whole families, whole villages just starved to death. That would be unthinkable, after all: we Irish are victims, dammit, not perpetrators. If it was true that the Irish stood idly by while their compatriots starved to death or emigrated, never to return, you'd think they'd feel very guilty about it afterwards. Maybe guilty enough to want to find someone else to blame for it? Naah, surely not?

"And the Great Famine was merely the worst of many, and of other many outrages committed in Ireland by the stranger. The English were looting and burning and pillaging and murdering in this land long before Adolf Hitler was a glint in his father's eye. And they haven't gone yet: still they strut about in their fancy uniforms in a part of the country, as though they had every right to be there. And that's never minding the "Kapos" down South."

So the Republic of Ireland is just like a concentration camp and the authorities here are nothing but concentration camp guards? It is certainly an unorthodox comparison. If it is a concentration camp, it is a most unusual one in that its occupants are voluntary.

"But opposition to that is, we are told, no more than a type of Nazism itself, hateful, outmoded."

What could possibly be "hateful, outmoded" about blowing up a town centre full of shoppers?

"Here we see the real function of the Holocaust for our settlers. This harping on another attempted genocide -- one so conveniently far away -- is an excellent example of that ancient human vice, hypocrisy. It cannot but remind one of the Pharisee in the temple, praying to God in thanks that he has been made better than others; so full of pride and self-satisfaction, and he nothing but a whited sepulcure, fine without, full of corruption and rottenness within. One must indeed deplore the excesses of the Germans during the Second World War; but, to paraphrase Muhammed Ali, "no German ever called me nigger" (that might be because you're not black --Ed.)."

Ah: those "excesses", surely to be "deplored". If only the Nazis had been more "moderate". 6 million is so "excessive". Why couldn't they have been happy with, Oh I don't know, 2 or 3 million? In Dunne's "Volk" outlook, nothing is more important than ethnic identity. Because the Nazis never had the opportunity to demonstrate their feelings about the Irish, then the Irish need have no opinion about them one way or another.

"We can I think safely leave the remembrance of the Shoah to those who suffered in it and to those who perpetrated it; our settler would do well to examine outrages nearer to their self and to their blood."

Dunne conflates remembrance of the Shoah with learning from it. The rise of Nazism contains lessons not restricted to the innate personality of the Germans. If you are to follow his prescription then you shouldn't learn anything about any historical event unless it is connected to your own "blood". I find it hard to imagine anything more antithetical to everything I hold dear than this regressive, anti-cosmopolitan, grievance-peddling ethnic-determinism.

Here's a little thought for you Paul: I have no idea what wrongs all of my ancestors did and I have no intention of taking responsibility for their deeds or deeds of their contemporaries. Yet you seem to feel that today's English people bear responsibilty for the actions not only of their ancestors but all other English people throughout history. You would have an English person feel "guilty" about the possibility that someone from their country might have done something bad to someone of our country hundreds of years ago. Yet you would applaud someone from our country today who tried to blow up that same English person without a trace of guilt. Here's another thought: how can you be sure that you are personally "ethnically pure"? Should you discover a rogue English ancestor in your family tree will you affect the appropriate humility?

Right back atcha

Happy Thanksgiving to John and everybody else!

Dick still doesn't get it

I think I'm banging my head against the wall. Reading Dick's latest post on Eoghan Harris/Anti-Bush protesters, he claims my summary endorses his own idiosyncratic interpretation of Harris' argument:

"Somewhat bizarrely, it's actually pretty much what I was saying, i.e. that Harris is alleging that anti-war protestors are leftist 'luvvies' taking their cues from 'Islington Trots'. It's an indefensible argument. 68 per cent of Irish people opposed intervention without a UN resolution. 100,000 people marched against it in Dublin. I think this represents a little more than the voices of Islington Trots!"

No, No, No. This is not the point and the numbers don't matter. 99.99 % of Irish (or British) people deciding that the moon is made of green cheese doesn't make it so.

The point is not whether the anti-Bush protesters consciously take their cues from the "Islington Trots" (more accurately "Hampstead lefties") but that they share the same flawed analysis. Remember also that there is a huge difference between opposing the war before it started (argument summary: "This would be unwise") and opposing it afterwards (argument summary: "Saddamite forces should prevail"). Dick conflates both positions to make his point. There is a huge difference between saying that 1) UN approval should have been obtained prior to the war and saying that 2) US troops should immediately withdraw.

Ultimately he dodges Harris' main argument: the moral delinquency of the protesters. Questions about left-right political affiliation or level of support are side issues. Even if you were to suspend disbelief and join Dick in his apparent view that the protesters included rural Fianna Fail cumann members, midlands auctioneers and little old ladies in equal numbers to the typical anti-globo/anti-zionist/student/marxist rentamob: the protesters' argument is still wrong.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Schadenfreude a bit previous?

Looks like I was a little premature in celebrating Arsenal's "demise" in the Champions' League competition. A lazarus-like resurgence has seen them acquire the fluency which had deserted them in Europe, winning their next two games on the trot. Their nervy win over Dynamo Kiev was followed last night by a superb 5-1 away win over Inter Milan. A home win against Locomotiv Moscow in their last group stage game will see them progress to the knockout stage. Incredibly, a drawn game would still see them qualify with a paltry 8 points should Dynamo Kiev hold a jittery Inter Milan in the other game.

Trots or not

More from Dick on the Eoghan Harris piece:

"Frank at Internet Commentator seems to be misreading my post from yesterday. The point was not that 'left wing' (or right wing for that matter) is a slur or an insult, but that left and right has little to do with protesting against the war...Harris's tactic has been to use faulty logic in concluding that if some of the protestors hold a certain set of opinions, then they all do and thus every critic of the war is tainted by the dubious politics of others. Frank's right in saying that Castro boosters were no doubt in the crowd, but it doesn't mean everybody was because of their presence, or indeed that they can be right about one thing and wrong about another."

I think, perhaps, Dick is guilty of "misreading" Eoghan. The thrust of the piece was not to present the anti-Bush protests as a left wing phenomenon (even though that is an accurate characterisation), rather to point up the moral delinquency of those who would either refuse to take sides between Bush and Saddam or worse, support the Saddamite forces. Dick seems to be characterising Eoghan Harris' argument as follows

1. Left wing "trots" are wrong

2. Left wing "trots" are opposed to the war

3. Therefore those who oppose the war are left wing "trots" and are wrong

It hardly needs pointing out that this isn't much of an argument as it says nothing about the merits of the present protest, the problem is: this isn't the argument Harris was making. To summarise the actual argument for Dick's benefit:

1. Upper class British leftists, who are influenced by Trotsky, such as Vanessa Redgrave or Tony Benn, have a particular analysis of the "conflict" between "the West" and Al-Qaeda.

2. This analysis states that all the blame for this "conflict" lies with "arrogant", "imperialist" Bush and specific "root causes" are Iraq and the US policy towards Israel. According to this view, Al-Qaeda is an understandable, predictable reaction from the "third" World to the policies of the "first" world. This "analysis" is expressed most consistently by Robert Fisk.

3. Fisk's "analysis" is unquestioningly accepted by the Irish Media, especially in RTE and the Irish Times and has become received wisdom. The protesters share this "analysis". (this analysis, by the way, is consistent with party lines on Cuba and Mugabe)

4. This "analysis" is wrong. Al-Qaeda opposes not just Bush and the US, but as can be seen from Istanbul, moderate Islamic democracies. Indeed Turkey poses a greater threat to Al-Qaeda's declared aim of a worldwide Islamic caliphate than the US. Furthermore it is likely the 9/11 attacks were planned during "conciliatory" Clinton's reign.

5. The price for accepting this incorrect analysis is that it would appease Al-Qaeda and those who are still fighting in Iraq.

6. As can be seen from 1939, appeasement doesn't work. Yielding to an enemy in the hope that they will moderate their aims is a seductive but ultimately dangerous fantasy.

There is obviously a lot more in Harris' piece but I think this more accurately summarises the point Dick refers to.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

It's all about goat-sodomy

Great quote from Perry de Havilland in the comments of this samizdata post which explains a little of the philosophy of libertarianism:

"Although I have no desire to see people prosecuted for buggering goats, I don't happen to think buggering goats is a good idea or something I could care to try"

I think there is often too much literal utilitarianism in political discourse. Thus, those who wish to legalise drugs are forced to make an argument about the "benefits" of marijuana. This flawed argument is easily countered by evidence to show any harmful effects of marijuana. The problem is, it doesn't really matter whether marijuana is harmful or beneficial. There is no moral justification for the government to punish those who freely choose to take drugs. This argument applies equally to "soft" drugs such as marijuana as it does to "hard" drugs such as crack cocaine. One needn't be in favour of (or indeed opposed to) drug use, prostitution or pornography to be opposed to their illegality.

From the Back Seat

More feedback on the Eoghan Harris piece I mentioned below. Jon is, of course, quite correct to note that Eoghan unnecessarily misrepresents Lincoln and Roosevelt to bolster his argument.

I remain perplexed at Dick's stance. He seems annoyed that Harris refers to the "anti-war" protesters as "left wing". In contrast to much of our political elite Dick considers "left wing" to be a slur or insult. If it is such a slur, why is it that all of our political parties (excluding self-declared "centrists" the PDs) call themselves "left of centre"? In any case, left wing is simply a label, a little crude but useful. The fact remains that the vast majority of anti-war protesters are left-wing anti-Americans. This is unremarkable, yet Dick wishes to present this as an outrageous slur.

"Having smeared opposition with the left wing brush, Harris then goes on to evoke 1939 and the reaction to the spectre of fascism. Once again, this wasn't a left/right thing. It was leftists I seem to remember that went to Spain to fight Franco. And it was a conservative government in Britain that vacillated about Hitler."

OK, so what? Eoghan's point was that in Ireland, during the war, there were those watched the war "from the sidelines" and affected a middle distance between Hitler and Churchill. This is analogous to those who would make little distinction between Saddam and Bush.

In any case the fact that some Irish leftists such as my grandfather's first cousin (and namesake) went to fight alongside the communists against Franco and some Irish "rightists" went to fight for Franco against the communists doesn't really say anything about the current situation. Franco won that civil war and Spain remained a dictatorship. It is rather facile to then claim that those who fought against him were necessarily on the side of the angels. If the communists had won, it is entirely plausible that Spain would have become a communist dictatorship and soviet satellite.

"Of course, if you opposed the war, you were a Trot... There still are Trots in Ireland, but if they could muster up 100,000 for their own demonstrations I'm sure they'd be happy. I'm still amused at his notion that so many people could be brainwashed by Trotskyists...Oh, and if you opposed the war you love Castro and are ambivalent about Mugabe. Go figure..."

Come on Dick, throw a stone into the crowd and you will hit someone in a Che Guevera T-shirt who thinks that Castro is doing a bang-up job and all the faults of Cuba are due to Yankee Imperialism. That person nursing a bruise probably doesn't give a damn about Mugabe. Chants and banners excoriate democratically elected leaders such as Bush, Blair and Sharon but you won't see a single person speak out about Mugabe. And if you think the plight of Zimbabwe is irrelevant to an anti-Iraq-war protest, how relevant is Israel or Cuba?

Monday, November 24, 2003

Slogans Run

Driving through Newry at the weekend, I couldn't help but notice the election posters for Sinn Fein and the SDLP. It was interesting to note that, despite the naked sectarianism of both parties' manifestos, their slogans and posters were curiously neutral in tone.

The SDLP's fatuous slogan, befitting an ageing complacent party in possibly terminal decline, is

"Now, More Than Ever".

This decidedly un-stirring clarion call surely confirms Eilis O'Hanlon's characterisation of the SDLP as hopelessly muddled.

The Sinn Fein slogan is the bland but sinister promise:

"Building an Ireland of Equals".

Now, leaving aside for the moment the normal critiques of the party, is there not something appalling about this vision? I have an image of legions of boiler-suited drones toiling to maintain perpetual equality, chanting: "We are not individuals, We are Equals!"

Purloined Punditry

Great article by Eoghan Harris in yesterday's Indo which notes the second hand nature of Ireland's lazy media consensus on Bush and Iraq.

"..the Irish pundits are in thrall to British left luvvies. You will never hear an anti-Bush party line on RTE that has not already been aired on the BBC. Most anti-Bush abuse does not come from working-class mouths. It comes in the cut-glass accents of the upper-class Trot, from a Tony Benn, a Vanessa Redgrave or a Glenda Jackson, gripped by colonial guilt. But if the Irish luvvies take their general line from Islington Trots, they take their particular political pathologies about America and Britain in the Middle East from Robert Fisk. "

I think that our cherished neutrality has a lot to do with the curiously detached view prevalent here. Neutrality is a grubby amoral compromise, yet this "sacred cow" has been burnished over the years so much that it has acquired the illusory sheen of a point of principle. There is nothing moral about a cop-out. Refusing to take sides between Hitler and Churchill was a necessary but regrettable piece of Irish history. Refusing to take sides between Saddam and Bush is contemptible. Worse than contemptible is to present this evasion as a superior, principled position.

Kool Kleb

Ron Atkinson is impressed with United's Brazilian midfielder on his return from injury. I have to concur. United were poor in the second half against Blackburn but were superb in the first half. Kleberson looked very bright and played some lovely one-touch football. He seems to have eradicated the ponderousness on the ball which marred his first few games for United. Comparing, as Big Ron does, Kleberson's short, sharp passes with Veron's less effective "Hollywood balls" it is easy to see why Ferguson was happy to let the Argentine go to Chelsea.

Best and Worst

I have written before about how I can't quite shake the Guardian habit, particularly on Saturdays. This weekend's sporting section again reminded me why I am so keen to find a new newspaper and why I still buy it. Ironically both pieces, the worst and the best of the Guardian Sport dealt with a similar topic: the role of self-deprecation in supporting the English national teams.

There is a common stereotype of the boorish England supporter which has spread from Soccer to Rugby and Cricket and there is a constant (albeit ludicrous) complaint in Ireland about the level of bias and boosterism displayed by British tv presenters towards England's teams. I am not sure what my compatriots think the proper attitude to be displayed by English presenters should be, because our own emerald-bespectacled presenters are equally culpable. Incidentally, I was reminded of this whinge by a typically great Onion piece this week - "Media Criticized For Biased Hometown Sports Reporting".

Ironically, we are supported in our desire for, if not neutrality, at least a more muted, detached manner of British sports coverage by the British broadsheet media. This can take two forms, only one of which is admirable.

Matthew Engels had a characteristically poisonous piece in Saturday's sports section which sought to urinate in the cornflakes of prospective England rugby supporters as they sought to win the World Cup against the holders Australia. Engels exemplifies the rarified metropolitan elitist whose reaction to any hint of patriotism is a moue of disgust. Furthermore, he is horrified that a win by England might somehow retrospectively sanctify Blair's support for George Bush and the liberation of Iraq. Shamefully he compares the UK with Argentina during the military junta

Engels' piece belonged on the Op-Ed, not Sports pages. In contrast to this example of the worst of the Guardian was an example of the best. It is testament to the English tradition of sportsmanship that one of the most celebrated events of English soccer, at least in broadsheet journalism, is England's 1953 3-6 defeat at home by the "Magic Magyars" of Ferenc Puskas' Hungary. It was a game which exposed the limitations of the traditional British approach to soccer, yet is awarded almost equal column inches to England's solitary World cup victory in 1966. In an absorbing extract from his book, Norman Fox tells the story of the Englishman (of Irish descent) behind the Hungarian success, Jimmy Hogan.

"Fifty years ago next Tuesday, English football's castle crumbled. On a dank afternoon at Wembley, Hungary finally ended England's unbeaten home record against continental opposition. But it was worse than that. The defeat was by a humbling 6-3 and not only had the "Magic Magyars" shown themselves to be superior in everything from ball skills to tactics, they opened England's wounds even wider by dedicating the historic victory to an Englishman. "

Strange Logic resumed...

Dick responds with a rather half-hearted half rebuttal on our - Are Anti-War protesters "Pro-Saddam"? discussion -

"there's more from Frank, who wants to present the invasion as a fait accompli. It's a curious position to say the least, since there's plenty to protest about, namely the continuing presence of US troops in Iraq. "

Well, Duh!: Obviously they are protesting the fact that there are US troops in Iraq. The problem with this position is that if their aim is achieved and the US troops went home, this would be disastrous for the Iraqi people and would prove a boon for the Saddamite forces. Stating the aim of the protest as explicitly as this rather proves the point that the protests are "Pro-Saddam"

In any case, my point is not to assert that all the fighting is "over" but surely it is a simple "accomplished fact" that the "invasion" (liberation) has taken place? Is Dick getting all Baudrillard on us in hinting that it hasn't?

More from Tony who makes the claim that the protesters are "Chamberlainesque" appeasers. He has a point, but he correctly predicts that I ("Internet Communicator"?) would think him "too soft".

In fact I also think he's a little hard on Chamberlain. The then British PM was not equipped with either the vision of Churchill or the benefit of hindsight possessed by all of us. It can easily be seen now that appeasement was a disastrous policy and Chamberlain has earned the enduring enmity of all Czechs and Slovaks for abandoning them to their fate. However, his first priority as British PM was Britain's national interests and he calculated, incorrectly as it turned out, that they were greater threatened by declaring a war he felt Britain couldn't win than by allowing Hitler to march in to the Sudetenland.

Had Chamberlain foreseen the consequences of his actions he would surely have disavowed appeasement. Perhaps somebody might correct me if I'm wrong but he didn't maintain an "Anti-War" stance during WWII, demanding that Churchill sue for peace. If he did, then the adjective "Chamberlainesque" applied to today's protesters might be more apt.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Strange Logic continued...

More from Dick on this:

"However, can anyone imagine people at the demonstration yesterday confirming they were pro-Saddam? Nope, me neither.

There might be few who would make that overt claim but it is the ineluctable logic of their position. I think that there isn't enough distinction made between positions 1) prior to and 2) after the war. This is testament to the narcissism of the protesters, their over-riding message is: "We are still right!".

Prior to the war, a reasonable case could be made about the wisdom of going to war against Saddam. This argument might be described as: "Don't get rid of Saddam this way". I think this is probably an unrealistic position but it is defensible. Another argument might be: "You don't know what will happen if this war goes ahead, best be careful". This is a defensible position but rather ignores the dangers of doing nothing. Yet another possible counter-argument would be "The fate of the Iraqis is not the concern of the US and they should be left to their fate". This is callous but has the virtue of consistency and is a defensible position.

Once the liberation took place and Saddam was defeated, none of these arguments make sense as they are about the wisdom of an action which has already taken place. It seems to me that there remains one possible argument which can be made in protest and that is: "Do more for the Iraqi people". This is emphatically not the argument being made by the protesters. Their over-arching protest is against the fact that the war has already taken place and that Saddam was deposed. This is why they are, whether they like or or not, "Pro-Saddam".

"It is possible to dislike Bush and Saddam."

Yes but which do you prefer? Do you really have to think about the answer?

"Regarding the Hitler/Staling metaphor, which probably wasn't necessary in the first place, it was used to illustrate the 'black or white' logic invovled. Basically, it's like saying that because you were anti-Hitler you approved of the Stalin's domestic politics, his campaign of violence and rape in defeating Germany and his empire building following the Second World War. Were the allies pro-Stalin? Not really. Churchill wanted to go to war immediately with the Soviet Union once Germany was done with and had to be dissuaded. In Churchill's case at least, it was possible to dislike both Hitler and Stalin at the same time."

The thing is, what does it mean to be "Anti-Hitler"?. In the case of the allies it meant making common cause with a tyrant. It probably wouldn't have been possible to defeat Hitler without Stalin. There was no other option than to deal with Koba. Thus, he was the lesser of two evils. In the case of Saddam versus Bush/Blair, is it really so difficult to find that Saddam is more evil than those democratically elected leaders? Would you really wish to describe your position as perfectly equidistant between those "extremes"?

Stranger Logic

Dick is annoyed at William Sjostrom's suggestion that the Anti-Bush demonstrators were pro-Saddam and accuses him of "strange logic"

"Applying the same logic you could say that if you were anti-Hitler, you were pro-Stalin. Give me a break."

I'm not inclined to give Dick a break. The gist of the demo was to complain that Saddam had been toppled and support the Ba'athist remnants who still fight. That's about as Pro-Saddam as you can get. Prior to the war, those who protested might expect to receive the benefit of the doubt. It might be unfair not to qualify their designation "Pro-Saddam" with "objectively". No such consideration should apply here.

Dick's analogy doesn't really add up. For starters the allies actually were "Pro-Stalin" during the war. They were fighting on the same side. Stalin was considered to be the lesser of two evils. Is Dick seriously arguing that Saddam is the lesser of two evils when compared to Bush and Blair? because that is the logic of his analogy, a "strange logic" indeed.

Hey Salam,

Great must-read bleat from James Lileks today including Istanbul, the Baghdad Sheraton, The WTC memorial and concluding with a reply to "Salam Pax" following the Baghdad Blogger's smart-arse letter to the Guardian:

"Let me explain this in simple terms, habibi. You would have spent the rest of your life under Ba’athist rule. You might have gotten some nice architectural commissions to do a house for someone whose aroma was temporarily acceptable to the Tikriti mob. You might have worked your international connections, made it back to Vienna, lived a comfy exile’s life. What’s certain is that none of your pals would ever have gotten rid of that “scary guy without the hideous moustache” (as if his greatest sin was somehow a fashion faux pas) and the Saddam regime would have prospered into the next generation precisely because of people like you. People who would rather have lived their life in low-level fear than change your situation."

RTWT, as they say.

UPDATE: Dick resents Lileks' tone:

"Hey James, you conviently ignore the fact that any Iraqi who had the guts to pick up a rifle and face Saddam got a slap in the face from the US. When the Kurds were being gassed nobody in DC wanted to know, becuase Saddam was their guy. Same goes for the Shittes whom Bush Senior asked to revolt in 1991. Could you blame them for giving up after a while?"

The first "slap in the face" (or dive into industrial shredder) would be from the brutal Ba'athist regime and not the US. In any case, I think that Dick rather misses the point. James notes that he would have behaved in exactly the same way as "Salam". He is not accusing him of cowardice, rather he is reminding "Salam" that the simple fact of being on the ground is not the same as holding the moral high ground. 21/11/03 11:58 AM

"A wave of Human Spam"

Cracking stuff from Samizdata's intrepid correspondent David Carr infiltrating the anti-Bush demo.

"It had a 'going-through-the-motions' feel about it. I am sure they are just as enthusiastic about their various causes as they ever have been but it felt as if they were unable to tap into it in any meaningful way. It wasn't really a street uprising it was theatrical event. The actors performed with conviction but there was no getting away from the fact that it was a simulacram and not real life. Like a couple who have decided to divorce but still live together. They sit around the dinner table together and pick up the kids from school all the while knowing that it is sham. It was dutiful and formulaic but passionless and not a little self-conscious. I am sure they all still believe in their visions but perhaps they are haunted by the nagging worry that nobody else does"

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Has a certain ring to it, no?

Apparently, my brand is


I have often wondered how they come up with these ersatz names. They sound like they mean something but are just simple gobbledygook. You know the type of thing: Arriva, Consignia. There's even a cooking oil called Culinesse. Now I know how!


Matt Cooper manages to overstate the number of Anti-Bush protesters in London on Today FM at the moment. The actual protesters only claim 130,000. Matt rounds this up to 150,000, over five times Scotland Yard's estimate. The big story of this protest is that it is a non-event, earlier today protesters were claiming several hundred thousand would turn out. Of course this story doesn't appeal to Cooper so he sticks to the script, wondering at this "massive" protest..yawn.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Ireland or 'Olland

The last line of the email from Conor's sister posted below reminds me of the time I visited Lisbon in 2000.

Ireland, Portugal and Holland were in the same World Cup qualifying group. Although Portugal had just achieved an impressive 2-0 victory over Holland away, they had been held at home by Ireland a few months earlier. They had expected to roll over us and Matty Holland's thundering equaliser still rankled.

On the taxi ride from the airport the driver asked where we were from. My Portuguese is only slightly more fluent than my Swahili but I gathered from his jovial, mocking tone that he mistook my answer: "Ireland" for "Olland" and was teasing me about "my country"'s inglorious defeat to the Geração Dourada of Figo et al. I took the opportunity to correct this misapprehension and reminded him of the frustration his "Golden" boys endured against Ireland. My schadenfreude was shortlived however: after he drove off, I realised he had seriously stiffed us on the change.

Equador - tin pot but friendly

My sister arrived in Equador two months ago. She is teaching English in Cuenca, the third largest city. I think this email I've just received gives a real flavour of the place. I feel I got a lot more about the economy, politics and society in Equador from reading this than I got from various dry sources on the www.

"Here are some things which are a little different here:

the C on the tap doesn't mean cold.

The public buses blast really loud salsa music.

You go to a disco and they mix heavy dance music with salsa.

In order to get your attention in the street the men make noises like "pssssst", this is the Ecuadorian version of the wolf whistle.

Advertisements on tv use a dancing scantily clad, large busted woman to sell virtually anything from chewing gum to washing powder.

You can buy lollipops called "Plop Plop Bum" and your fridge is a "Durex".

In order to buy two red bic biros you must first go to one counter and say what you want, that person will then give you a receipt which you take to another counter. The next assistant is hidden behind tinted glass, you pay them and they hand you a receipt through a tiny hole, they give you another piece of paper which you give to yet another assistant who finally hands you the pens. Communism is alive and well.

You can see spit roasted guinea pigs (they taste pretty good but not much meat) and pigs in the street.

It is common to go into a shop and they can't give you change of a five dollar note. Apparantly the government haven't minted enough coins so change is a constant struggle. They have a saying in Ecuador that a man with only one hundred dollar bills is as poor as a pauper as no one can change them.

You watch a breakdancing competition with no music.

In the pharmacies you can buy pretty much any prescription drug you want over the counter.

People don't like American politics but dream of emigration and living the American dream.

The President interrupts all tv channels every Monday night for half an hour to tell you what he has been up to.

You buy your milk in plastic bags.

The cheese is shite.

The people are friendly and when you tell them you haven't much Spanish they continue to talk to you just the same.

You kiss everyone when you meet and when you say goodbye.

There is no home delivery of post. All post goes to the central post office where you must rent a post box.

You look out your window and see a humming bird hovering next to an orchid.

Everyone presumes you are American, and when you tell them you're from Ireland they think you are from Holland.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Back from the Dead!

Good to see that Peter is back blogging after a six month hiatus

Why Stop There?

William Sjostrom notes how, with the marginalisation of "Old Labour", the schizophrenic LibDems have rebranded themselves as the party of appeasers. Meanwhile Alex Singleton is surprised to see glimmers of free-market-thinking underneath all the pomposity as their small business spokesman calls for the UK's Department of Trade and Industry to be scrapped.

I think this is an excellent idea but I don't see why one should stop at the DTI. There is a conflation of purposes in the selection of Government Departments and allocation of ministers. The official purpose of each department is as it is described. The real purpose is to award a ministerial title to someone it is considered desirable to have within the government cabinet. The problem is that these departments become fiefdoms, either of the minister concerned, or even worse of the mandarin(s) nominally answerable to that minister. Once you have a department of "stuff" it becomes imperative to "do something" about that "stuff". This perpetuates the initiative-driven interventionist government model. Far better to just assemble a cabinet of individuals without specific responsibility and scrap all these departments.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003


If anyone wonders why there is precious little "18-Rated" material or language here: This is why.

(Even though this is more like my own experience!)

Not so fast!

I'm going to have to take issue with John about the proposal for additional levies on new houses. Local authorities already use development levies on new planning permissions for quite a big chunk of their income. I have written about this before. John conditionally approves of such a policy:

"The Irish Independent reports this morning that some county councils are so short of funds that they will impose levies of "up to €28,000" on all new houses. If this is the beginning of real local government with local fiscal authority, then I'm in favor of this. The money is supposed to be for infrastructural improvements in the counties."

The problem with - let's call this by its correct name - this development tax is that it disproportionately targets

a) Housebuyers, particularly first-time buyers,
b) Those who want to improve their premises,
c) Startup businesses

and disadvantages those against existing homeowners and existing businesses. There can be no justification for this lopsided tax and that is even before you take into account the effect it would have on house prices.

{I do agree with the rest of his point, particularly on the appalling benchmarking nightmare and the desirability of proper, devolved local government.}

Louth is Lovely

It takes Jon 1 hour & 40 minutes to drive the 27 km from Greystones to Dublin Airport. Meanwhile, thanks to the M1 completed to Dundalk, I can manage it in about 45 minutes!

Leaving Carlingford

I'd been dreading last Saturday for a few weeks. It was the day we were due to move house. It's not exactly because of sentimental reasons - although I can't deny a wrench in leaving the first house we built for ourselves, in which my son took his first steps and with that view - more that I imagined the moving itself would be a nightmare. It wasn't. The house we will be renting for the next year while we build our new house is perfect for our needs in every aspect, accommodation (plenty of space for the three, soon-to-be-four, of us), location (Blackrock, where we are building), except for one: Internet. We still have no land-line, never mind broadband so blogging will be strictly work hours only until that is rectified.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Sheridan of Arabia

Gavin is going to Iraq!. Call by and offer your help/advice/thoughts/financial assistance/warnings!

Friday, November 07, 2003


Interesting debate over at Samizdata about abortion. I have to say that it perplexes me how so many normally clear-thinking commentators such as Glenn Reynolds and Eugene Volokh take refuge in the standard comforting evasions about abortion. In professing themselves to be "pro-choice" it is as if they wish to parade their socially-liberal credentials. But abortion is not a simple individual social freedom involving as it does two parties: the mother and the foetus. I am heartened by the more considered views of some Samizdata contributors. The absolutist position of abortion-rights advocates is that a woman should have the right to choose to kill a perfectly viable foetus (partial-birth abortions). This is based on the absurd premise that a foetus only becomes a person at birth. The absolutist Pro-Lifers offer a similarly absurd position, that life begins at conception. It seems to me that a majority of people would support legal abortion in the first trimester and a ban after that point. This may seem to be an arbitrary fudge but on closer examination it's not. All you need to do is accept two principles

1. A person has the right not to be killed

2. No woman should be compelled to gestate a foetus against her will.

Thus deliberate killing of a foetus should never be legal but it should be legal to remove it from the womb. If the foetus is viable and survives those who created it should be responsible for its welfare (at least until adoptive parents can be found). That would be both parents in the case of consensual sex and the father in the case of rape.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Me too

John is against the death penalty but he "doesn't brag about it".

"Probably, because I'm a squeamish, middle-class wimp. Believe me, agreeing with the Irish sanctimonious set doesn't make me happy."

It doesn't make me happy either but I'm not opposed to it because I'm a "squeamish middle-class wimp". I don't weep for the cold-hearted killers who are put to death. My opposition is not based on a point of principle - any Libertarian objection to this undoubtedly intrusive government action is more than outweighed by the requirement of that government to punish those who murder and deter those who would murder - but the impossibility of reversing a death penalty should the conviction prove to be unsafe. It may well be the case that in excess of 99% of those executed are truly guilty but 100% certainty is unobtainable in every case, so it is better to err on the side of caution. That said, I don't share the sanctimonious set's view that the America's death penalty regime is uniquely barbaric. In fact, the British and Irish regimes are arguably more barbaric.

What better example of barbarism and decadence could be provided than the fate of the killers of Jean McConville? This woman was abducted, sadistically tortured to death, buried in an unmarked grave faraway, her reputation rubbished and her family broken up. Her killers were not executed, they didn't serve any time. If by some miracle they were identified and convicted, they would immediately be released and we would be asked to "draw a line under the past".

Now that's...

...what I call below-cost selling!

Deportivo Aye Caramba!

Astonishing stuff last night in the Champions' League as the normally "disciplined", "consistent" Galician side, third placed in Spain's La Liga, just one point behind Los Galacticos of Real Madrid, are humiliated in the Principality, setting a new record.

Result: Monaco 8 - Deportivo la Coruna 3

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

"Greater Guardianship for all Americans"

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

None of the above

I had been thinking about the inadequacies of democracy. That is that 51% of the people can theoretically get to boss 49% of the people around. This becomes more of a concern as government grows more intrusive but it is also a problem when there is an ethnic divide and especially as the numbers in each community approach parity, such as there is in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland's current territorial status derives its legitimacy from the fact that more people wish to remain in the UK than join the Republic of Ireland. This seems a lot fairer to me than the notion that those residents who favour the Union should be coerced into a United Ireland by a numerically inferior group. Yet it is still somehow unsatisfactory. It seems that whichever way Northern Ireland would go there will be approaching half of its residents unsatisfied with that status. Independence is something neither "community" wants, yet it may be the fairer option.

It occurs to me that NI could be offered a referendum on its future. Options could be

a) Remain in the UK
b) Unite with the republic
c) Independence
d) Re-partition (allowing predominately nationalist counties to secede)

Now if this vote was offered on a first-past-the-post basis let us say the likely result would be in that order

1. a)
2. b)
3. c)
4. d)

However if it were offered on a proportional representation basis, (i.e. first preference, second preference, etc.) it is more likely that independence (or re-partition) would be the favoured option. However much Unionists wish to remain in the UK, independence would be preferable to a United Ireland, and it is easy to see independence as a second favourite option for Nationalists too. Thus, though neither side "wants" independence, neither might they "mind" it certainly when compared to the option they don't want.

UPDATE: Thinking about this further, the weighting of preferences in such a vote would be crucial. You should get the opportunity to support or oppose each option so you could get first preference, second preference support and first preference, second preference oppose. In such a vote it is likely that the first two options , a) and b) would mainly cancel each other out. One advantage of such a plebiscite is that, as the relative size of each community approaches parity, it avoids the tipping point inherent in a first-past-the-post system. Thus it is less vulnerable to small demographic changes and offers, if not the (unachievable) permanent solution desired by many, an enduring stable solution. 5/11/03 12:14PM

A great poet and a great fool

Colby Cosh defends W.B. Yeats' (literary) reputation.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Michael Howard, PM?

Confident assertion from Eoghan Harris in yesterday's Indo.

"Howard can beat Blair at the next British general election. Most of the British media don't know this yet. Conservative papers hailed him as a safe pair of hands, an improvement on Iain Duncan Smith, a careful caretaker until someone more more charismatic comes along. But none of them had the bottle to say he could beat Blair at the next general election... But he can. Because anything that Blair can do, Howard can do better. Blair convinced the middle class they could trust him to be as conservative as John Major. But Howard can do this even better - and as a bonus he can secure the support of the upwardly mobile working class because, unlike the posh Blair, he came up the hard way. "

I think that a lot of the pundits miss the point about how to "modernise" the Tory party. With the linear left-right model in mind their assumption is that the Tories need to become more like New Labour to win. This may have been true of the route back to power for Labour, they did need to become more like the Tories but the same is not the case in reverse. Much as political pundits might wish it so, the British have not fallen out of love with the Tories because they became, pace Michael Foot's Labour party, too ideological. The irony is that the "ideology" decried by liberal pundits was often closer to public opinion on Immigration, Europe or the Euro. Indeed it could be argued that the Conservatives were insufficiently ideological, jumping on whichever bandwagon, tacking towards Tony, wearing baseball caps on backwards in pursuit of power but with no purpose or consistent philosophy.