28 October, 2006

Lt Tom Tanswell

The MoD has announced the death of Lt Tom Tanswell, the 120th British army fatality in Iraq. Lt Tanswell was serving with 58 (Eyre's) Battery, 12th Regiment Royal Artillery and died in a road traffic accident.

Lieutenant Tom Tanswell was born in London on 23 February 1979. Prior to joining the Army he had gained a degree in Management and Marketing from the University of Manchester, and amongst other things, had also been the area manager for a major supermarket chain.

He commissioned into the Royal Artillery in August 2004 and, upon successful completion of the Royal Artillery Young Officers' Course, was posted to 12th Regiment Royal Artillery taking his place as a Troop Commander within 58 (Eyre's) Battery in February 2005.

During his time with the Battery, Tom deployed on exercise to Crete and to Poland prior to deploying to Iraq for the first time on Operation TELIC 8 in April this year. In Iraq he was a Multiple Commander, directly responsible for twelve men, manning three vehicles. He frequently escorted Danish Military Police and reconstruction teams and was well-known and respected by his Danish peers.

Tom was a tremendously enthusiastic and cheerful young man. He had a broad spectrum of interests and hobbies and this was evident, not just within the Army, but also from his time at university where he acted in university productions and was sports captain for his halls of residence.

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Israelis nuke Lebanon by R. Fisk.

In the Independent (where else?), intrepid reporter Robert Fisk (who else?) asks,

Did Israel use a secret new uranium-based weapon in southern Lebanon this summer in the 34-day assault that cost more than 1,300 Lebanese lives, most of them civilians?
Given Fisk's evidence, or rather lack of it, the answer is almost certainly, they did not. Perhaps he is confusing the IDF with SMERSH. Actually, the real story is that a British scientist detected higher than normal radiation levels in material sent to him from a Lebanese bomb crater and inferred that depleted uranium shells might have been used. From that vague finding, Fisk set his imagination to work and came up with the secret atom bomb theory. As yet nobody has been able to confirm the Indy's conclusions. What a surprise!

In case such vacuity proves insufficient to prove the evil of the Israelis to Indy readers, Fisk excites them further by claiming that he had previously seen
...two dead babies who, when taken from a mortuary drawer in West Beirut during the Israeli siege of the city, suddenly burst back into flames.
In this context, previously means 14 years earlier. Fisk finishes off with a few hundred words on the health hazards of radioactivity - it's the isotopes, stupid - and how the bad guys from Israel murderously attacked the innocent Lebanese.

As propaganda goes, it is a good basic idea, but the storyline needs more work. Perhaps the Israelis should be placed in alliance with the Goa'uld. It would be more believable.

Causes for optimism in Iraq.

Analysing the situation in Iraq in this week's Spectator, William Shawcross argues that, although mistakes have been made, events are going in the right direction for the Coalition and to pull now would present Islamic terrorism with a disastrous victory over the Iraqi people.

Shawcross is clear where the blame lies for the present chaos in Iraq: not, as so much of the media would have us believe, with the USA but with Iran, Syria and Al Qaeda, who are stirring up various groups of Sunni and Shia terrorists against each other as much as against the Coalition. Yes, the US has made some mistakes but they are tactical rather than strategic. In particular, Shawcross singles out the Pentagon which he accuses of paying insufficient attention to the Iraqi defence ministry, specifically a failure to ensure that the Iraqi army is paid on time and has sufficient equipment.

After early mistakes, the US army and marines are learning fast; effective counter-insurgency training is now being given to all officers down to platoon level with the result that since 2003 their performance on the ground has improved considerably. In this, Shawcross detects echoes of the British army's learning curve in Malaya and Oman.

To Shawcross, the Iraqi army itself is another cause for optimism. Officer and NCO training is underway and, although more needs to be done, the initial success can be judged from the increase in reliable units from about four battalions in 2005 to several divisions a year later.

An interesting perspective in a week when it seems that the terrorists' allies in the US and UK fossil media have launched a second front against the Coalition.


Marianne Willliams 2: medical, legal and police stupdity.

Since my original post on Marianne Williams, the Daily Telegraph has published an account of the evidence. It makes dismal reading. At least two incredible examples of medical incompetence in the treatment of the 15-month-old baby emerge.

  1. Tests which could have given a precise indication of the baby's condition were not carried out, so nobody had the remotest idea of what his salt levels were before the treatment.

  2. the consultant in charge used a formula for adults to calculate which drugs and dosage to use.
Rodney Gilbert, the doctor responsible for this shambles, was the person who first pointed the finger of suspicion at Williams. Always remembering the libel laws, draw your own conclusions.

The doctors did not have the necessary diagnostic information and, anyway, they applied the wrong treatment. Yet, despite this breathtaking medical incompetence, the Crown Prosecution Service agreed with the police and charged the mother with murder. There we have it: incompetent doctors, stupid lawyers and thick policemen. What a combination!

It strikes me that the wrong person was in the dock.


27 October, 2006

German soldiers: Skull attack 2.

Spiegel Online has more on the so-called "scandal" of the German soldiers and the skull attack (SA) in Afghanistan, first revealed in Das Bild. It reports that a German television station has got hold of other, similar pictures.

Spiegel also has a video report, Skandal Bilder (scroll down the menu). It is in German but politicians pontificating sound the same in any language.

Bild-Zeitung has pictures of what the SA soldiers got up to. It is in German so, like me, the prurient might be grateful for Google Language Tools.

"Much ado about nothing", springs to mind. It was no more than a few squaddies letting off steam. With all the fuss it has created, it is a good job they were not medics. Those boys can be really imaginative.

Marianne Williams: not guilty.

Leading on from yesterday's post about Roy Meadow, which highlighted the possible dangers of relying on expert testimony in criminal cases, comes the trial of Marianne Williams, charged with murdering her baby by feeding him too much table salt. The prosecution argued she did it because she was depressed. The defence argued that the death was a tragic side effect of medical treatment requiring high levels of sodium chloride. Other than the testimony of expert witnesses, the prosecution had no proof. The verdict - not guilty.

The Daily Telegraph reports:

Miss Williams' lawyer Jacqui Cameron said that there was a worrying trend for mothers to be charged with murder on the basis of evidence that is "at best, as complex and, at worst, dubious".

"Clinicians are far too prone to point fingers of suspicion at persons who are already vulnerable," she said.
Exactly the point I was trying to make yesterday: the medical profession should know better. Expert witnesses presenting opinion and theory as fact is unacceptable. It is indeed encouraging that, as Williams' lawyer continued,
"The verdict today gives us hope that the general public is learning the lessons that doctors are failing to learn despite other high level cases such as Sally Clark, Trupti Patel and Angela Cannings."
Those are the the three women convicted of child murder after dubious expert evidence from Meadow.

The Telegraph also quotes a Detective Inspector as saying that,
the decision to press charges was only taken after a "meticulous review" of all the evidence.
Heh. Hands up all those who think Plod can spell epistemology, let alone understand the complex issues involved. They were out of their depth; but, to be fair to the police, they were reliant on experts who were every bit as arrogant as Meadow. Perhaps such reprehensible behaviour by expert witnesses should be identified as a syndrome. Meadow's Syndrome by Arrogance?


The parable of the cat and the uncovered meat.

Sheik Taj el-Dene Elhilaly, a Sydney mufti, has upset the Aussies with a sermon in which he said that women displaying their "meat" are responsible for being raped.

"If you take uncovered meat and put it on the street, on the pavement, in a garden, in a park or in the backyard, without a cover and the cats eat it, is it the fault of the cat or the uncovered meat? The uncovered meat is the problem...

"If the meat was in the fridge and it (the cat) smelled it, it can bang its head as much as it wants, but it's no use...

..."If the woman is in her boudoir, in her house and if she's wearing the veil and if she shows modesty, disasters don't happen....

.."The woman was behind Satan playing a role when she disobeyed God and went out all dolled up and unveiled and made of herself palatable food that rakes and perverts would race for. She was the reason behind this sin taking place
The Australian has a transcript, an Arabic audio file and reaction.

The Sheik is generating such opprobrium because in the modern orthodoxy of post-modern feminist theory all men are rapists and all women are victims. When you think about it, however, his remarks are little more than traditional common sense morality embroidered with a simple parable. Certainly nothing to get worked up about, unless you are a post-modernist feminist.


26 October, 2006

Roy Meadow

Professor Roy Meadow is a paediatrician, whose so-called "expert" testimony was significant in securing the conviction of two women for murdering their children, The convictions were later squashed by the Appeal Court because Meadow's evidence was discredited. As a result, Meadow was struck off the medical register by the General Medical Council for serious professional conduct; but he successfully appealed to the High Court, whose ruling seemed to grant expert witnesses immunity from action by their governing professional bodies, whatever nonsense they spouted. The Appeal Court has now over-turned that decision on immunity but at the same time has reinstated Meadow.

It is a difficult case but I will try to explain the problems in simple terms. As the Times reports,

Professor Meadow was acclaimed as an expert in the field of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (Sids) and how such deaths could be differentiated from children harmed by their parents — so-called Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy.
It was Meadow's claimed expertise in these matters and his evidence that the accused women were suffering from Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy, not SIDS, that led the jury to convict the accused.

A syndrome is not a disease in the normal sense, that is a disease with symptoms that can be seen or measured. It is essentially a pattern identified in the behaviour of a number of individuals which has been categorised and labelled by researchers in the medical profession as a "syndrome". That pattern of behaviour may or may not exist in the real world. In other words, where one team of researchers might identify a particular pattern, using the same data another team might come to a very different conclusion. It depends on how you interpret the data. Such a subjective interpretation of data is a theory rather than a fact. In academic jargon, it is a conceptualisation, that is, a way of looking at and interpreting things. Different people look at things in different ways.

I know these are difficult concepts to grasp , even for post-graduate students, but the essential point that is that Meadow's evidence was based on a (theoretical) conceptualisation but he claimed it as fact. The average jury, impressed by Meadow's status and not containing individuals who understood these complex issues, seem to have accepted Meadow's claims as facts and so the conviction was secured despite the absence of any physical evidence whatsoever.

As a professor, Meadow should have known better than to present theory as fact. Heaven knows what he is teaching his research students . At the time of the original trials I remember thinking that, when I was a research student, if I'd presented a my supervisor with an argument treating a theory or a view as fact, she would have demolished the argument very quickly.

It was the sheer arrogance of Meadow claiming his interpretation of theories as facts which led the GMC to strike him off. The Court of Appeal seems to have thought Meadow acted in good faith. I doubt they grasped the nature of the argument.


Drawing on a report in the the Los Angeles Times, the Asian Tribune has a story that, what it labels, a "neo-Taliban" movement is emerging as Islamic extremists from around the world are travelling to Pakistan and from there crossing over the mountain passes into Afghanistan to aid the local Taliban in their fight against the ISAF.

The foreign terrorists gather initially at staging bases in Quetta (Balochistan), Miramshah (Waziristan), and Peshawar (North West Frontier Province). From the map, it can be seen that essentially those three areas cover the whole of the Pakistan-Afghan border. It seems that NATO' worst nightmare is on the verge of coming true.

Of course the Pakistanis are denying the existence of Taliban training camps on their turf.

Click to enlarge in new window.

According to the LA Times, the Taliban camps are also being used to launch attacks on Europe. Some arrivals,

were told to launch attacks in Europe, said a senior Italian anti-terrorism official. He described the confessions of Milan-based Tunisian and Moroccan suspects who got to Syria, but then were sent back: "They said the representative of Zarqawi's group really grilled them: 'Do you have military experience? Here's an AK-47; do you know how to use it? Have you ever fired a mortar? If not, we don't want you.' "

Instead, they were directed to bomb a basilica in Bologna because it displays a painting of the prophet Muhammad as depicted in Dante's Inferno, investigators say. Moroccan and Italian police broke up the alleged plot and arrested the group this spring.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan's historical allure for Islamic militants, the lawlessness of the Pakistani border region and the aggressiveness of the Taliban make for an ominous combination, anti-terrorism officials said...

...Besides fighting in Afghanistan, Al Qaeda and its allies could once again use training venues and combat zones in the Afghan-Pakistani borderlands to groom terrorists for attacks in the West, Caprioli said. The suicide bombers who struck the London transport system last year and other British suspects in foiled terrorist plots traveled to Pakistan for training, expertise and direction, anti-terrorism officials say.

Greg Barker:

The Conservative Party MP, Greg Barker has left his wife and children to shack up with a man, apparently the local painter and decorator. The tabloids smell hypocrisy.

In the past Barker has voted against gay-friendly legislation, including four readings of the Adoption and Children Bill - a measure allowing unmarried couples, both straight and homosexual, to adopt children....

...Since the split Barker has quietly removed any mention of his wife and children from his own website. Previously he highlighted his family lifestyle in newsletters sent to constituents and his children featured in discussions on matters such as litter collection.
The charges of hypocrisy are not entirely unjustified against a senior member of a party which claims, "... the family will be at the heart of our social policy... the evidence that families provide the best environment for bringing up children is now overwhelming". However, the press would do better savaging Barker for his lamentable role as the leading standard bearer for global warming and all the rest of the anti-industry, middle-class dinner party pseudo-science that the Conservatives are peddling under the Cameron.

As for his behaviour in abandoning his wife and children, as the long-suffering Jane Clark might have said, what do you expect when you sleep with below stairs types?

Waziristan: Taliban taxes and law and order.

Having created a safe refuge for itself in Waziristan, the Taliban (aka militants) is starting to behave like a government and impose taxes. From the Australian:

PRO-TALIBAN militants operating in North Waziristan have announced plans to levy local taxes, further eroding Pakistan's authority in the remote tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

The plans were announced in pamphlets issued in the local capital, Miranshah. They follow the controversial September 5 agreement between local militants and Pakistani authorities, apparently with the personal approval of the Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.
In addition to taxation, another government function the Taliban has usurped is proving rather more popular with the locals: law and order. Khaleej Times:
Near Miranshah’s main bazaar, the militants have opened an office in an Islamist seminary, or madrasa, where their officials settle disputes among Pashtun tribesmen.

“We are responsible for maintaining law and order in the bazaar,” Eid Niaz, the deputy head of the office, told Reuters as tribesmen sat in a circle, waiting to plead their cases on issues such as disputes with neighbours.

Under the deal, tribes can be held responsible and punished for any violation to the agreement in line with tribal law. Punishment includes having vehicles confiscated by the government and shops and houses demolished or sealed.

Residents said crime had fallen since the militants took over security responsibilities in the region, though several people accused of being “American informers” had been killed.

“We’re happy that they have taken charge of law and order. We don’t have robberies anymore,” said one resident.

25 October, 2006

Israel in NATO?

The Jewish news service, Ynet has a story examining the possibility that Israel will join NATO. The obvious question is, why? What possible reason can Israel have for wanting to join a defensive alliance in which most of the member countries are in it for a free ride. Of the 26 member states, 21 will not raise a single rifle to defend themselves and one (France) behaves as though it is not a member.

NATO is a coalition of the unwilling. Its combat operations in Afghanistan are being undertaken by the US, British, Canadians and Dutch armed forces. Although NATO's ISAF is desperately short of troops, the rest of the members either will not send any troops or refuse to let those they do send go into combat areas. Australia makes a more military valuable contribution to NATO that the majority of member states. Do the Israelis really want to join this shambolic alliance?

A relic of the Cold War, NATO no longer serves any useful purpose and the farce over troops for Afghanistan is surely one of the final few nails in its coffin. The debate now should be about what structures are to replace it. Israel could be a valuable member of some type of new security apparatus.

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German humour in Afghanistan

Das Bild is claiming to have photographic proof that, during 2003, German soldiers defiled a corpse in Afghanistan. Both Google Translator and BabelFish are defeated by the tabloid German, so details from the The Daily Telegraph:

...the photographs show one soldier holding the skull next to his exposed penis, while in another image, a soldier displays the skull mounted on a cable cutter in front of a patrol vehicle bearing both the German flag and logo for the ISAF.
Is that all? The average medical student is surely more imaginative. Predictably, the politicians are pontificating at length even before the photographs have been proved to be genuine.

US nervous about Musa Qala truce.

The American ambassador to Afghanistan, Ronald Neumann, has been getting nervous about the recent deal between the Taliban and the British army which saw both sides retreat from Musa Qala in Helmand. According to the Daily Telegraph,

Mr Neumann said that US and Nato analysis earlier in the summer indicated that in areas of the south such as Helmand, local tribes were siding with the Taliban because of grievances over local bad governance. "If you just say anyone who is sympathetic to the fight on the other side is forever outside the pale of negotiation you rather shoot yourself in foot," he said. "But at same time if you have an area that is under the Afghan government flag but is not under the actual authority of the Afghan government then you are losing in a very big way.

It (the truce) certainly shouldn't be replicated until those questions have been answered.

There is also a high degree of nervousness in the Afghan government about the Musa Qala deal, with ministers comparing it warily to truces with the Soviet army in the 1980s which mujahideen commanders used to build up their forces and gain a tactical advantage.
The Ambassador seems to think that the ceasefire negotiations should have involved the Afghanistan government in Kabul. However, if NATO is going to attempt to impose western concepts of centralised governance throughout Afghanistan, then the ISAF is doomed to failure. The power of local tribal chiefs and elders is likely to carry more weight within the villages than any remote national authority. The elders in Musa Qala wanted both the British army and the Taliban out of their village, so Brigadier Butler, the British commander, negotiated with them not the central government. In fact, the elders will probably accept the Afghanistan flag flying in their village but resent Kabul's interference in their affairs just as much as that of the Taliban or NATO.

The possibility of the Taliban using the truce to regroup is a legitimate concern, one of which Brigadier Butler was probably well aware. My analysis is that Butler probably felt it was a lesser evil than continuing the fighting and driving the locals to ally with the Taliban, thereby presenting the terrorists with a significant propaganda victory, with unpredictable political implications across the entire theatre.

Fat Man over Japan

Watch out Japan. Lock up your geishas. John Prescott is coming to play diplomat in the Far East, where he is to solve the problems of North Korean nuclear testing, militant Islam and climate change. As the Daily Telegraph observes,

The Americans send out Condoleezza Rice, a respected foreign affairs specialist. We send a philandering buffoon.
The only reason this clown can still enjoy his croquet at the taxpayer's expense is that Tony Blair's political position is so weak that he dare not sack any cabinet minister whose loyalty can be totally relied on.


24 October, 2006

Immigration limits

Th government has acted to prevent Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants from swamping the the United Kingdom, or more accurately, England, or even more accurately, Labour parliamentary seats in England. The Times chief political correspondent has the story.

It does not really matter what the government says it will do. Once illegal immigrants get into the country, they are allowed to stay and, however undesirable they may be, it is virtually impossible to get them out.

Senlis stay in Afghanistan

Nearly a week ago, Crumbling Spires reported that the Senlis Council had been kicked out of Afghanistan. Now, they appear to have settled their differences with the Afghanistan government and are staying. From what Senlis have said to Afgha.com, it sounds as though they have given some sort of undertaking to watch what they say and do in future.

In a statement released to Afgha.com, Senlis Council spokeswoman Jane Francis said, “The Senlis Council has not been banned from its activities in Afghanistan. We received a letter from the Afghan Ministry of Interior saying that we should not engage in activities "contrary to the constitution of Afghanistan". Senlis is a research institution and think tank and [in] this regard has never done anything unconstitutional in Afghanistan.”
That raises the question of in what other regard has Senlis possibly not been behaving itself.

Taliban hunting - Pak army style

Going after the Taliban in Balochistan is dangerous for the Pakistani army. Soldiers are liable to get killed. It is much safer for them to sweep through the hospitals and haul away, to Quetta, foreign looking patients, that is, anybody with a beard and a turban.

Guardian on Iraq

In an article featuring one of their own polls, the Guardian is getting excited about 61% of voters wanting British troops withdrawn from Iraq by the end of the year.

Leaving aside the methodological issues of the reliability and validity of such polls, the Guardian's article is a prime example of how the media create stories in support of their own views. Cut the paragraphs about the poll (first four and last two) from the story and you are left with a respectable news item on the current problems in Iraq, the thrust of which is that British troops could be reduced in the near future because it may, or even should, be possible to hand over security to the Iraqis. However, such positive news does not fit the Guardian's anti-war agenda so it is buried deep in the body of the text.

Ministry of Defence and senior British military commanders are now signalling that the number of British troops in Iraq will be cut significantly by early next year.

Major General Richard Shirreff, the British commander in southern Iraq, said yesterday that the planning assumption was that there could be what he called a "reasonable reduction" in the 7,000-strong force in southern Iraq at the end of the current operation designed to rid Basra of serious criminals and corrupt officials. Operation Sinbad, involving about 3,000 British troops and Iraqi forces, is expected to finish in February.

In a little-noticed report to the Commons defence committee, the MoD said at the end of last week that the Iraqi army would be in a position to take over responsibility for security in southern Iraq by the end of this year. "The 10th Division of the Iraqi army [covering southern Iraq] will be fully operational by December 2006 and the intention is to have transferred operational command to the Iraqi ground forces command by this date," the MoD says.

Senior defence officials say the total number of British troops in Iraq could be cut by as much as half by next summer.

That timetable, however, may still depend on the reaction of US commanders concerned about the impact at home and abroad of a significant British pullout.
I wonder how many of those interviewed by the Guardian could identify Basra, or Kirkuk or even Baghdad on a map.


23 October, 2006

Do not mention the war.

Nicholas Burns, US Under Secretary of State, has been in Berlin vainly asking Germany, whose small ISAF contingent is restricted to the relative safety of northern Afghanistan, to make a more positive contribution to NATO. According to Reuters he said,

"I would very respectfully ask Germans ... to reflect on whether the very narrow and very rigid restrictions put on the German troops make sense for NATO."

"Wouldn't it be better if Germany and France ... could be willing to have those troops sent sometimes on a periodic, temporary basis to help the Dutch, British, U.S. and Canadians that are undertaking the major share of the fighting?"
I suppose Burns had to go through the motions. It is also to be hoped that, in private, Burns is telling NATO members like Germany that the organisation has outlived its usefulness; the free ride is over and whatever new structures replace NATO will require any member states to actually fulfil their treaty responsibilities.

C5 gets friendly with killers of British troops:

After the NYT, it is the turn of the UK's Channel 5 television news, in association with SKY News, to have a friendly chat with the killers of British, American and Canadian servicemen in Afghanistan: the Taliban. Moreover, Channel 5 and SKY provide a helpful service to the terrorists by conveying their threats of violence:

Referring to Tony Blair and George Bush, Mullah Amin [C5's Taliban best friend] said: "It's acceptable to kill ordinary people in Europe because these are the people who have voted in the Government.

"They came to our home and attacked our women and children.

"The ordinary people of these countries are behind this - so we will not spare them. We will kill them and laugh over them like they are killing us and laughing at us."

Picnicking with the enemy:

A New York Times reporter picnics with the Taliban and hangs out with drug dealers whilst, elsewhere, her friends are killing American, British and Canadian troops. It is a long article which reveals rather more about the left-wing media's mindset than anything new about Afghanistan.

Afghanistan debating methods:

Compared with the rest of the country, western Afghanistan has been relatively quiet. However, yesterday, at the aptly named village of Waryan in Herat province, violence erupted when two local pro-government Pashtun warlords, Amanullah Khan and Arbab Basir, took issue over some, as yet, unspecified grievance. Not for them the subtleties of rhetoric; their preferred debating weapons were heavy machine guns, rocket propelled grenades and small arms. Eventually, the Afghan police and army stopped the fighting.

IPPR Report

The Institute for Public Policy Research is a left wing think tank which nobody takes any notice of. Yet many of today's papers, including the Guardian the Telegraph feature a report it has produced, claiming that "paedophobia" is somehow making childhood a worse experience for children and that British adults are afraid to intervene in cases of anti-social behaviour by young people.

The Institutes' director certainly knows his left-wing jargon:

The debate about childhood in Britain is polarised between false opposites: that either children or adults are to blame. It also ignores inequalities in the transition to adulthood. Many children are safer, healthier and better educated than in the past, whilst others suffer complex, traumatic routes through adolescence. Complex structural changes to our society, coupled with changes to how young people behave, have produced this situation.

"A rise in social paedophobia will simply make matters worse. In the past, local parents tended to look out for children in a community, deciding what behaviour was appropriate, how it should be dealt with and supporting each other in doing so. In closer knit communities, adults supervised their neighbours' children. These days, adults tend to turn a blind eye or cross over on the other side of the road rather than intervene in the discipline of another person’s child, often because they fear they might be attacked.”
In fact, for all its pseudo-academic complexity, the IPPR misses the simple point. It is the police that are afraid to tackle the yobs and when ordinary citizens do anything about the problem, the police inevitably emerge from the safety of their police stations only to protect the yobs under human rights legislation.


22 October, 2006

Good news for terrorists:

The Sunday Telegraph reveals that the government has a cunning plan, codenamed "Contest", to combat Islamic extremism. The strategy promotes moderate Islam through podcasts, distributing 100,000 free CDs in universities and colleges, and secretly funding a moderate Islamic website, The Radical Middle Way. More on this from Patience Wheatcroft.

Meanwhile, MI5 is struggling to find the resources to keep track of 1200 individuals identified as Islamic terrorists. Al Qaeda can sleep soundly tonight.

Trevor Philips

In the Sunday Times, Trevor Philips, the unelected chairman of the UK thought police, the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) has called for an open debate on multi-culturalism and then issued a not-so veiled threat to try to ensure the debate is conducted on his terms.

There is a danger that increasingly we are so afraid to speak to each other about our differences that nobody can say what they mean and nobody can hear what is meant. Such barriers to honesty and understanding are a disaster for race relations.

These words will of course be taken by some as a licence to offend; they should not be, as the CRE will use its powers strenuously against racist speech
Philips certainly has the tools of intimidation available; the CRE is one of the few organisations that the police can stir themselves to respond to quickly. This is what can happen when a failed politician worms his way into an unelected position of power.

Field Marshal Inge on Afghanistan and Iraq

According to the Observer Field Marshal Sir Peter Inge, the former head of Britain's armed forces, has said that in Afghanistan and Iraq the British army lacks a clear strategy and is at risk of defeat. The Field Marshal's comments,

...reflect the growing dismay among senior military officers and civil servants involved in defence and foreign affairs, that in the critical areas of Afghanistan and Iraq Britain lacked clear foreign and defence policies separate from the US.

I don't believe we have a clear strategy in either Afghanistan or Iraq. I sense we've lost the ability to think strategically. Deep down inside me, I worry that the British army could risk operational failure if we're not careful in Afghanistan. We need to recognise the test that I think they could face there,' he told the debate held by Open Europe, an independent think tank campaigning for EU reform.

Inge added that Whitehall had surrendered its ability to think strategically and that despite the immense pressures on the army, defence received neither the research nor funding it required.

'I sense that Whitehall has lost the knack of putting together inter-departmental thinking about strategy. It talks about how we're going to do in Afghanistan, it doesn't really talk about strategy.'

He seems to me to be making the obvious points that the politicians have not properly thought through their long term political strategy and, moreover, the army might be at risk of defeat because of budget cuts, which have left them short of men and equipment. Highlighting such glaring policy failures "could risk operational failure" is not the same as arguing that such failure is inevitable, or even likely.

Given the recent misrepresentation of Brigadier Butler, by the Observer's equally anti-war stable-mate, the Guardian, we will have to wait and see if Sir Peter is being misrepresented.

Bus company greed

Sunday problem:

In the UK, buses are running empty all day. The government pays the bus companies £350 million to allow concessionary pass holders to ride free on the previously empty buses. The transport companies make a big, investment free profit. The bus companies squeal that they cannot afford to operate the scheme without more government money.