Friday, 29 September 2006

Iraq...

I have received many comments on this subject and discussed the issue of Iraq and the wider war on terror with friends and colleagues, many of whom are directly affected by military service or professional interest. Chiefly the issue of whether Western Powers were right to go to war to topple Saddam Hussein, and what to do now. I have been a supporter of the US's strategy in the middle east, though not necessarily of its tactics.

Many people's take on this is coloured by their opinions on George Bush, who was thought by most of the world to be an Idiot and this view was held way before 9/11. Rational discussion of these issues with those on the left is therefore futile. However the reactionary right is no better, and seeks to defend what is a difficult position, and often defend the Rumsfeld, Pearle, Wolfowitz and Co. when they are clearly being arrogant and counterproductive.

Despite the ambiguous legal and moral position of the Invasion,

The Strategic rationale for the conflict was compelling:

The lack of opportunity that characterizes the lives of many young men of the region breeds terrorism. So does poverty - at the right level. Absolute poverty means people are too interested in raw survival to dabble in politics. If the bottom rung of the hierarchy of needs is met, as in the islamo-socialist states of the middle-east, then the middle class and those aspiring to join it look for influence, both spiritually and politically. This is where disaffection runs deepest. Young men with some education, a bit of money and a deep sense of indignation are more likely to blow themselves up in London or New York. This is the socio-economic group which has spawned revolutions since the early 20th Century, and the one which is enjoying a population boom in the middle east at the moment. Thus since the 1970's the Arab world has been exporting young men in a terrorist asymmetric war on the West. Typically these are well educated young men, with a bit of cash. The disease of Political islamism is spreading virrulently amongst this demographic.

This culminated in 9/11 and the U.S.A said "enough". Afghanistan was the immediate source and was dealt with efficiently, though not completely, as current actions in Helmand demonstrate. Iraq, however was symptomatic of the deeper malaise affecting the region. The kind of regime whose citizens became terrorists. Relatively affluent, but with little economic or political freedom and a corrupt and violent regime. Though Iraqis were not deeply implicated in terrorism against the west, they certainly were against Israel. Furthermore, Iraq was in serial breech of Security Council resolutions, and a thorn in the side of western relations with the Arab world.

I never bought the "Weapons of Mass Destruction" justification, neither did I buy into the notion that Iraq was as serious a sponsor of terrorism as the Mullahs next door. But Given Iraq's geography and Alienation (few outside the Quai d'Orsay would weep for the Baathist regime) it was a the only chance to change the political culture of the Middle-East. The theory being that the fruits of Liberal Democracy and the Rule of Law would become so self-evident that the region would free itself and cease exporting suicide bombers after a generation or so. The Democratic Domino theory. So regime change was the real reason for going to war. Saddam was a Nasty Bastard who deserved the chop. His downfall would persuade other Nasty bastards in the region to liberalise and this would end terrorism, in time. Dictatorships rarely fall apart without outside help, thus "regime change" was the strategic rationale for the war.

There are ancillary benefits to this strategy - not least that a democratic Iraq would provide bases for US troops to keep an eye on Iran and Syria - necessary since the expulsion of US forces from Saudi Arabia. Iraq's oil would be available via pipeline to Turkey and keep the price down. This last one is seen by many on the left as the real rationale for the war. It isn't. If the USA needed the oil that badly, it could have just bought it - Saddam was an adherent of RealPolitik and could have been cut a deal. That would have been much cheaper than war. So any "It was all about the oil" comments will be treated with the derision they deserve.

Given the potential benefits of this policy, it was worth the risk.

I cannot conceive an American president who didn't take action in the gulf in 2003. Clinton, Gore or Kerry would certainly have taken similar action.

Did we have the Right to go to war?

Given the attitude of France (veto - come what may) a second resolution was impossible. Previous resolutions seemed to give adequate legal justification for action at any time. So I agree with the attorney General's view that a second resolution was desirable but not strictly necessary.

There is a second issue: Namely whether a government has the right to send the Troops into an unpopular war. Here I am in two minds. The public in these issues rarely has all the information, and we elect governments to make the hard decisions. The decision to commit troops to battle, therefore should remain in the hands of elected politicians, not the mob and certainly not the judiciary, though the opinions of these estates should not be ignored by the government when making the decision. Hundreds of thousands of people marching under banners helpfully provided by the Socialist Workers' Party (AKA the "stop the war coalition") were outnumbered by millions who chose not to attend the rally. Indeed the government that took us to war subsequently won an election (albeit a flawed one) so the popular mood against the war may have been broad, but it certainly wasn't deep.

Given that war is always a political desision in the national interest, there's no legal or moral obstacle to the war.

Why has it gone so Horribly wrong?

There were too few troops for post-war reconstruction and law & order. This is an easy thing to say with hindsight, and military commanders ALWAYS want more troops for the job.

Turkey's intransigence left the US forces a Heavy division under strength (20-30% more combat power). Crucially this should have been coming from the North, leaving escaping Baathists less room to destabilize Sunni areas, instead of steaming through the Suez Canal during the invasion phase. Another Division would have made a huge difference in the immediate aftermath in restoring order.

The US was wrong to disband the Iraqi army. This led to mass unemployment and the disaffection this brings.

The Western forces were lulled into a false sense of security by the Shi'a's joy at the fall of Saddam. The focus on DeBaathification and the concentration on Sunni extremists left the Shi'a militias time to organise - helped and aided, of course by Iran. The violence of Sunni extremists was expected. The civil war amongst the Shi'a was not.

The War has demonstrated the futility of combating Islamism by democracy. If Muslims, it appears, believe in "One man, One Vote, Once". In the Middle East, Islamism has won, and the "War on Terror" needs to be fought in that context. The sullen and surly peoples of the middle east hate us on a religious level, and that should prevent us from engaging any further bouts of liberal imperialism. The americans are right not to rule out punitive action, but I doubt whether we will be bringing the fruits of democracy to Muslims again any time soon. They aren't ready for it (yes the tiresome lefties were right - but only when they are being racist).

Democracy needs to develop. It cannot be imposed. Without a civil society, people vote how they're told to by the existing power structures - in Iraq tribal elders and clerics. The democratic process becomes a tribal head-count and is therefore meaningless. Better that the effort that went into elections went into creating the rule of Law first. Democracy is a means to an end - the end is freedom and the rule of Law. This can exist under many forms of government. Democracy is merely the best at sustaining it.

So what can the Western powers do now?

Well, we cannot pull out otherwise, before long Iraq will look like the Sudan and we're back to square one. Western forces need to maintain resolve and confront the worst excesses of the insurgency until the Iraqi forces can cope on their own.

So this war will not have a "victory". It will be long, unglamorous and tiresome. It will not be lost on the streets of Amarah or Baghdad, but in the opinion pages of the Leftist media. It is this that is sucking the political will to see the fight we are in (rightly or wrongly) through to its bitter end, and it helps no-one. The Robert Fisks of this world are potentially condemning an entire region to mediaeval barbarity because of their own knee-jerk anti Americanism.

America can "do" nothing, except wage the war and try to keep a lid on things in Iraq, until the Iraqis can do it themselves. Any other outcome is courting disaster. They can try to fight better and cleaner. No more Abu Grahibs. The media should (but won't) stop jumping on any minor transgression by British and American forces and blowing it out of all proportion. I'm not saying that wrongdoers shouldn't be exposed, but that the media shouldn't give the impression that they are gleefully hounding the military and indulging in schadenfreude each time they find something to exaggerate.

Glibly saying "I told you so" and comparing Bush unfavourably with Saddam says more about the Journalists and readership in question than it suggests to policy makers. It also is hurtful to the brave boys and girls on the ground - many of whom, if they were to offer an opinion were not in favour of the war, but accept that their duty is to their comrades, country and their service. The rights and wrongs are largely irrelevant now. The war is a long-term reality, just like northern Ireland and the Former Yugoslavia. Let's just get on with it.

The wider war on terror is more like the cold war. A long slow battle of ideas. Islamism really poses less of an existential threat than communism ever did, but is more likely to leave dead bodies in western cities. For this reason we must confront it at home and abroad with resolve. Iraq is now a cause celebre for Islamists.

So our forces will be in the middle east and central Asia for decades, whatever the Independant says. There will be no victory, but we cannot afford to lose. I'm afraid we're playing for the point.



Monday, 25 September 2006

Labour Doesn't understand....

On average, Labour harms businesses profits and therefore the value of your pension fund. Red tape, tax and taxing of pension dividends harms companies and the British economy, reducing profits and therefore the amount available to invest. This slows growth, leading to reduced wages and higher unemployment and worse pensions for all. This demonstrates that the government doesn't understand the idea of the incentive. It thinks that diktat and rules can replace freedom to choose in creating good outcomes. That is why they are fucking the country up, slowly, but egregiously.

On a related but separate issue, the issue of loopholes rears its head. Until recently, people were forced to buy an annuity with their pension fund. This means that the annuity provider will pay you an income 'till you die, but you can leave nothing to your children when you do. This is effectively betting on the date of your own death and therefore offensive to some silly protestant sect. (I can say what I like about this lot. Their adherents get excommunicated if they read the web). As a result, they were given a dispensation to have an "alternatively supported pension". Basically, the theory went, if you're an extreme protestant nutter, you can
draw an income off the value of your fund without buying an annuity. This has the advantage that as your needs change, you can alter your income, and leave what remains, tax-free to your sprogs.

Not surprisingly lots of people think this is a good idea. The treasury are not amused and are going to close this "Loophole". How?

Are they going to ask Stockbrokers and IFAs for proof of creationist thought before selling a SIPP? Hold prayer meetings in their offices before advising on their financial affairs? Ask for letters from church elders?

What about my belief in "freedom to do what you want with your money"? or the belief that all should be treated equally, regardless of creed? I believe in those as strongly as religious loons believe in their imaginary friend upstairs. My belief, however is backed up with two centuries of scientific, liberal and economic thought. Theirs is based on the unedited droolings of two-thousand year old paranoid schitzophrenics.



Friday, 22 September 2006

A Dilema...

It's pissing down with rain, which means the rivers will be stonking. Hurricane Gordon means the surf's up on the south coast. I have to go and see my Nana, and I've cried off Rugby to do so.


Do I Canoe, Surf or see my Nana this weekend? Your advice will be much appreciated!



Local Democracy

This Government is cynical. Deeply Cynical, but lisening to a presentation by a senior councillor this morning, I was staggered at the depths of mendacity to which this evil govenment will stoop.

The Prosperous South-East has suffered the greatest council tax rises of the areas of the UK. The electorate is quick to blame the unfortunate (Conservative) councillors. But there is nothing they can do. Inflation is running at 5-6% (mostly wages). More and more regulations and targets need checking (increasing back-office costs). but worse, the treasury is taking an ever grater slice of council and business rates and transferring it (to Labour's heartland) north. Furthermore, the grants from central government are limited to 2% (obviously Northern Councils get more) and capital loans now carry interest.

In my area, the previous Lib-Lab control kept within the budget by slashing the roads budget. Investment has therefore become desperately needed as the highways fall apart. The Conservatives, now we have control of the council, are finally delivering, but at huge cost. But while the council struggles to maintain crumbling roads properly, the government provides grants for toatally unnessesary anti-car traffic calming schemes, which proliferate to the huge annoyance of local people, who would rather not drive over potholes on their way to a speed hump, via a chicane past a speed camera.

In order to have Gordon Browns tax rises delivered by Conservative councils for national electoral gain, he has crippled local democracy, to the point they cannot deliver anything other than what the Government tells them, rendering the whole edifice almost useless. This is before we go into John "two Shags" Prescott's scheme to destory debate in council chambers.

Councils need to raise money locally and spend locally. Councillors should be allowed to vote on traffic schemes, even if they own a car. Central government (and regional government should, god forbid it ever happen) should just fuck off.



The Perils of the Stag Do...

This is a clear example of a magnificent hangover covered up by some quick thinking on the morning of the wedding. Organise a crash. Develop amnesia - brilliant! you get sympathy even though you stood your good lady up at the altar...



Monday, 18 September 2006

The Police (again)


A Chief Inspector writes...

"Somewhere we changed from being the guardians of law and order to becoming the gatekeepers for a civilised society. Nothing is too personal or trivial for the police to get involved with. Nothing is shameful and nothing is sacred. Everything is someone else’s fault and everything is paid for by others. Decent, legitimate and deserving citizens are lost in our system as we struggle to filter out the white noise made by our disintegrating nation, as it slips into the abyss
"

I couldn't have put it better myself. The police really are between an unreasonable public who want draconian law (so long as it doesn't apply to them or their horrible brats) and the government who demand enforcement of ever more petty and counter productive targets - the meeting of which prevents the police doing what they should be doing (which isn't, incidentally "enforcing the law" but "keeping the peace"). Sometimes, however the police are their own worst enemy. Many coppers know this, and do their best. Some are officious bastards.

Many are surprised at me for having such mealy-mouthed support for our boys in blue. I don't blame the police - but those who prevent them doing their job. However many of the criticisms levelled at the police are justified. If it is true that a disproportionate number of Black men are convicted of drug offences, then this is a problem. The police must be ready to admit their faults. Individual officers probably aren't racist, but if the stats show a discrepancy then advice needs to be given to the officers on the beat (ignore canabis?). If it's conviction rates, perhaps the CPS is more to blame? Perhaps black youths are on average less trusting of the police and so are gobbier, and therefore get the book thrown at them - in which case it's a vicious cycle which needs to be broken. A softly-softly approach - ignoring crimes that don't matter in the grand scheme of things and focussing on those that do, will work wonders.

This will help the police to avoid alienating their natural supporters. Intimidation, harrassment, petty theft and graffiti matter more to the average joe than the murder clear up rate (which is very good). These petty crimes are crimes without a clear-up statistic. In this change in policy, The motorist needs to be let off the hook a bit - perhaps a warning for your first minor speed camera offence in any 12 month period? Common sense needs to be applied rather than the letter of procedure or the "clear-up" target.

Above all the govenment needs to be reminded of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Priciple:

"To measure a thing, changes a thing"

This is true in public policy as well as Quantum Physics. The inspector's one of the good guys...Go on. Read his blog. It is excellent.



Thanks Iain

Well I'm the 65th Tory/Right of centre blog. Hurrah. I'm genuinely surprised to have made it so high up the list.

My last post seems to have divided people. Fear not - this is not going to become an erotic blog, but I do link to things that interest or amuse me. I'm not purely a propeller-headed political wonk, though I can get deeply boring on matters such as flat tax.

As for prague tory's comment that sex and politics don't mix... Well William Jefferson Clinton, Alan Clarke, Edwina Currie and John Major, hell even fat-boy Prezza mix sex and politics (eurrgh). Why shouldn't I? Perhaps I should make the erotic links less explicitly titled....

Anyway come back later, when I've found something interesting to say for myself.



Friday, 15 September 2006

The Other Great Social No-No

This Blog has talked at length about religion (mostly against) and deals with politics at great and tedious length - with a bit of swearing though, less than the peerless DK. The other topic you're not supposed to breach over the dinner table is sex.

Rules are there to be broken. After reading yesterday's critique of sex bloggers by Bryony Gordon in the Telegraph, I decided to look into the genre.

Now I know no-one's going to be interested in the sexual exploits of The Very British Dude, and because a great many of you know who I am, I'm not going to tell you who I bonk when and how. There certainly won't be pictures of the old chap in a state of tumescence, nor of the Very British Dude's pasty arse whilst he's banging away in a seven girl, five man mongolian clusterfuck. Don't worry. Nor will there be any images of scantilly clad ladies (except where artistically nessesary). But after a trawl trough some of the better erotic blogs out there (my word there's a lot of crap), I've linked some that got me hot under the collar. If I still find them interesting, the links'll stay. If you come accross any you like, let me know.

Maybe if I'm really lucky, I'll find myself mentioned just like Mr Eugenides did...



Thursday, 14 September 2006

Parliament will be prettier after the next election


The boot-faced brummie terrorist-appologist harridan with the laughably incoherent views is standing down at the next election, so we won't have to put up with her tedious, sanctimonious, hypocritical moralising. She is apparently going to campaign for a hung parliament - she can't actually bring herself to say she wants the Labour Party to lose. No, she wants a change to the voting system, a common cry of anguish made by people whose parties or dying creeds are "failed by democracy". Probably because people don't vote for them much (socialists or Liberal Democrats for example).

"Labour should hold a third of the seats, the Tories a third and the rest should be made up of Greens and other parties" she said.

Isn't that for the electorate to decide, you silly bitch?



Wednesday, 13 September 2006

On Second thoughts

Last night I spent several hours with the Twenty-something oiling, lubing and rubbing and poking about and otherwise engaging in a spot of bike maintenance (you have dirty minds the lot of you).

I had resolved to not use my car for a month - the idea came from a BBC comedian, Dave Cohen who resolved to live without his car. Predictably his rationale was to save the planet, whereas mine is rooted in the observation that girls are more likely to sleep with you if you have firm thighs and a six-pack (my fat and wheezy performances on the Rugby field in the pre-season friendlies added impetus too). The extra disposable income is another incentive. Mr. Cohen lives in London, where a car free life is a piece of cake - I managed for 5 years. I live in rural Hertfordshire, where I suspect it will be a bigger ask.

The trials and tribulations of a car-free life were going to provide much blogging material. Then I read Mr Eugenides' brutal fisking of a particularly sanctimonious Guardianista and I thought i'd better shut up about it instead.

Never the less. No Car for a month (though I'll make exceptions for canoeing - it just can't be carried on a bike and seeing my Grandma once a week - Northampton is 1 hour by car or 3 by train) Let's see if it's possible.



Tuesday, 12 September 2006

Everything's Wrong

Cycle helmets make you more likely to be killed on the road (because motorists drive more aggresivly against cyclists they percieve as experienced). Low Speed limits increase the level of fatalities on roads. "Safety" cameras make the road more dangerous. Road sign "clutter" is now a major cause of accidents.

Obvious cause and effect has broken down, and almost every public policy outcome is counter-intuitive. The Safety Nazis motivated more by a killjoy puritainism than safety concerns actually make things worse on our roads. And not just on the roads, the same mentality leading to similar fucked-up priorities and perverse incentives has poisoned every aspect of the public sector:

High exam pass rates signal a failure of the education system. "Investment" in the NHS has simply led to cost inflation and service cuts now the money has run out. The welfare state actually makes the poor poorer.

It's not about how to make government work, but how to make it STOP.



Monday, 11 September 2006

What's Going to Happen?

Well I've made my bets. Tony won't survive the year as PM and goes between October and December 2006 (10/3 on). I reckon Gordon's shot his bolt (as well as being an unspeakable bastard) and the next leader won't be him (4/7 against). With the most likely early challenger, Allan Johnson likely to take all the Brownite fire, I reckon he might slip up (plus, at 5:1, the odds aren't good enough). My outside bet is therefore Hilary Benn, (27:1 outsider) Minister of State for international development , son of arch commie and all round "nation's favourite uncle" Sir Antony Niel Wedgewood-Benn, 2nd Viscount Stansgate.

If we're going to be governed by this shower of shits, we might as well try to profit from it.



Friday, 8 September 2006

A British Hero

I wish to salute Jim Young, who was enjoying his time at the crease so much he decided that 44 not out just wasn't enough. Having retired hurt (because of a Heart Attack), the next couple of wickets fell cheaply so he returned to the crease to add another 4 runs.


His doctors have since told him not to play for the rest of the Season. Spoilsports.



Thursday, 7 September 2006

Tony Blair is a Knob*

There ain't nothin' the dude can say about the end of Tony Blair except that he's thoroughly enjoying it.

God! I can't wait 'till parliament's back in session. I want to see the PM wriggle on the hook like the cold-blooded vermin he is. Personally the longer the spivvy, grinning prick stays in power, the worse it is for Labour, therefore I don't want Blair to go just yet. Furthermore Tony's hopeless clinging on to the trappings of office prevents the Grasping, joyless one from getting his fingers in the till.

Which is good. Frankly the best thing Cameron can do is rise above the unedifying spectacle and enjoy.

*Andrew "freddie" Flintoff 2006



Tuesday, 5 September 2006

Steve Irwin


I have been looking for a suitable tribute to Mr. Irwin. Harry Hutton at Chase Me Ladies, I'm with the cavalry provides



Race and the Individual.

Much bollocks has been spouted by the media about the poll indicating that 10% of British Asians think "honour Killings" are justifiable. (Incidentally, this belief is about half as prevalent in Muslims as those model integrationists, the Hindus).

10% of any demographic group believe stupid, illiberal things (16% of British people think non-whites are "less British") and can be persuaded to say so (anonymously, if you ask them the right question). It makes a good headline, but don't make policy on the back of this.

Indeed the phrase "honour killing" can cover an awful lot of crimes, not just murdering your sister because she fancies the wrong chap, just as if the question on race is loaded if asked after a discussion of, for example Abu Hamza. The politics of race is poisoning our relations with each other. On the one hand you have the Race relations industry with its sub-marxist divide and rule policy (Trevor Phillips is actually talking sence now - Its Ken Livingstone we need to watch). On the other, you have the Daily Mail tendency. These wings of opinion have their own agendas, but both identify people first by their political identity grouping (asian, gay, black etc...). This stereotyping gets reflected into personal tragedies.

Molly Campbell - Misbah - "abducted to face a forced marriage to a man twice her age", because her father, a Muslim, took her to Pakistan. This was the narrative from the press and the right-wing blogosphere. This story came from Misbah's maternal grandmother. The real story was that a hysterical woman moved her daugher away from a loving family and moved to the remotest piece of rock she could find. Furthermore, she banned the unfortunate girl any contact with her father or siblings. Misbah even suffered a name-change to which she did not consent. Undersandably she would rather be brought up by her father, who appears to be a rather admirable character.

That was a human, family tragedy. Not a skirmish in the clash of civilisations.



Monday, 4 September 2006

Lefty: "I was (and always have been) wrong"

Clinton's welfare reforms (basically you're only allowed 5 years of welfare in your life and no more. If you're still out of work, tough) are deeply unpopular with the British left, despite their magnificent success in getting people into work. Will Hutton in today's Guardian admits

"Many American liberals accused Clinton of meanness and legislative child abuse - and I remember having great reservations"

After detailing the sucess of this programme, He goes on to admit

"The right's prejudice seems justified and the liberals are dished."

But isn't that always the case? But finally a key pinko cheerleader is seeing the numbers and having 2+2=4 rather than the 5 or 6 that they usually make. Maybe next he'll aquaint himself with GSCE economics and make the case for lower taxes. Look at the evidence from the Australia and the USA. We live in hope.




Friday, 1 September 2006

Art


"The scream" was stolen a couple of years ago. I was totally unaware of it as it appears to have passed me by, as news sometimes does. It has since been returned, two years to the day after it was stolen in an audacious armed robbery. I have an affection for the painting as I've seen it and it is a memorable image. What was remarkable is the extent to which tourists in Norway's national Gallery ignored the magnificent Romantic landscapes and stunning portraits in the rest of the Gallery (most egregiously an enormous party of Japanese camera fetishists) to make a beeline for the Munch section.

Why go to the gallery to see the only image in there which you've already seen?

I must admit I know little about art, and I usually end up liking utterly convertional paintings that everyone else likes - usually ones with an intersting story to make them memborable, but I do enjoy the peace of a gallery and used to spend hours in the Tate Britain, when I lived just across the river. Here's some more pictures I like:

Caravaggio's David. I like that the decapitated head is a self-portrait. The artist was a violent, brawling piss-head with whom I feel some affection.


The Fighting Temeraire: The second ship in the line at Trafalgar being tugged to be broken up. The Nations favourite painting. The painting tells simply of the passing of a perhaps more heroic age.

The Death of Major Pierson by John Singleton Copley, simply because my friend Chris says " A house is not a home until you have pictures of a bird with her knockers out and us killing the French"
Dali's Slave Market with the disapearing bust of Voltaire: I just think it's a really clever painting. A print adorned the wall in my bedroom for many years after I saw it in Florida. The Girl on the left it Dali's lover. The Bust of Voltaire is easier to pick out when the painting's this size - on the canvas, its more subtle.



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