Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A chance to right a great wrong

The Gurkha Justice Campaign. Click through now. Sign up.

A group of retired Gurkhas fighting for the right to settle in Britain have won their immigration test case at London's High Court.

They were challenging immigration rules which said that those who retired from the British Army before 1997 did not have an automatic right to stay.

Prominent supporter actress Joanna Lumley said it was a "chance to right a great wrong".

The government said it would now review all Gurkhas' cases.

The regiment moved its main base from Hong Kong to the UK in 1997 and the government had argued that Gurkhas discharged before that date were unlikely to have strong residential ties with the UK.
That last piece of (emboldened) legalistic bullshit makes me ashamed to be British. These men fought for us. They and their forebears have served our nation with immense valour for 200 years. Who gives a damn whether they have any residential ties with the UK. If they're good enough to die for us, they're good enough to live with us.

Please click through and sign up to this:
I, the undersigned, call for the Government to act immediately to change the law to allow all retired Gurkhas the right to stay in the UK, without reservation.


Via.

Quote of the day

"If a person breaks into your home, you are justified in using deadly force in defending your family," said [Police spokesman, Sgt Matthew] Mount
Background:
Police responding to a call from the city's northwest side about 3:20 a.m. found 64-year-old Robert McNally on the hallway floor with his arm around the neck of 52-year-old David T. Meyers, who was pronounced dead at the scene... Police said Meyers was naked except for a mask and latex gloves and had entered the home through a window near the girl's bedroom with rope, condoms and a knife.
Meyers was a convicted sex offender.

I agree with the Police spokesman.

Take the Cabalamat test

Actually I cheated. Two are real Palin quotes, the other two randomly generated by the program. Can you guess which?
It's very hard to tell the difference.

Palindrone 2

The attacks against Palin have been disgusting, her acceptance speech was astonishing, her answer in the clip below is gibberish.



Cafferty's disgust is understandable. This exposes an important question. Palin has been compared to Reagan and Thatcher, but both these were intelligent people with good understandings of the economic principles of Liberalism. Thatcher had Keith Joseph behind her, Reagan was deeply influenced by Friedman.

When asked about economic questions, Palin just puts a pile of stock phrases into a bag, jumbles them up and then pulls them out in a random order. That technique produced some striking lyrics for David Bowie but it's unconvincing in the political context. It's the kind of thing a very stupid but carefully rehearsed person might do when completely out of their depth.

Even without these interview problems, Palin's history of bathing in religious snake oil makes it hard to take her brain seriously. Her involvement with a Kenyan witch-hunter reveals plain, unadorned stupidity - not a lack of judgement, just plain stupidity. The preacher involved is a brutal buffoon, ludicrous and malevolent, a Capo in clown trousers. If Palin buys into that sort of religion, she's an idiot.

The important question, though, is this: So what? Obama is an economic cretin with a history of involvement with religious lunatics, and he's standing to be the next President, not the next VP.

UPDATE: Damian Mann points out in the comments that Palin's acceptance speech was a teleprompter triumph. That's true. I wonder what Obama's teleprompter thought about it.






Via.

Monday, September 29, 2008

O'Rourke's chance improves

I'm told I have a 95% chance of survival. Come to think of it -- as a drinking, smoking, saturated-fat hound -- my chance of survival has been improved by cancer.
Best wishes for a full recovery, P J.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Totalitarianism

I've been too busy to respond to this before now, but Peter Ryley opened his recent post about totalitarianism - a response to the discussions I'd been having with Harry Barnes - as follows:

Harry Barnes has opened himself up to a bloggertarian attack...
And his last paragraph began:
Sometimes I wonder about the exaggerated nature of contemporary political debate, inaccurate epithets abound.
Well, yes. Quite so.

We have a dialogue of the deaf here in which people do not listen to the other side at all, and frequently misrepresent their stances. Disagreeing with someone is one thing, disagreeing with some monstrous parody of their views is another thing entirely. Disagreeing with their views because you are suspicious of their motives is absurd.

I far prefer Peter's second sentiment, as quoted above. I'd far rather remain civil and try to see what merit there is in the other person's argument - and to do so without name-calling and "inaccurate epithets".

He argues that:
Risdon's definition of totalitarianism was so wide as to be a catch-all rather than a useful tool of analysis... One of the most egregious errors in political debate is the use of terms outside their specific meanings... the term was popularised in the post-war period by Carl Friedrich and Zbigniew Brzezinski (later President Carter's National Security Advisor) in their book, Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy, first published in 1956.
I think it is sufficiently revealing to be in itself an end to the debate, and a proof of my point, that Peter considers my definition of totalitarianism - any political system that "lay[s] claim to control of the totality of my being" - is a catch-all. It isn't a catch-all for my politics. The definition I use fits the precise forms of politics that the old left - the pre-Marxist, Liberal left - fought against in its clerical and monarchical manifestations.

Oliver Kamm shone an interesting light on this in his book Anti -Totalitarianism: The Left-wing Case for a Neoconservative Foreign Policy. In this, Kamm noted that:
The historical idiosyncrasy of the debates since 9/11 is not that some parts of the Left excuse or identify with totalitarianism, but that an alliance has emerged between different and previously hostile forms of totalitarianism.
These are a recrudescence of theocratic totalitarianism, and the totalitarian left. That the left includes totalitarian strains is not in dispute. The source Peter Ryley cited, Friedrich and Brzezinski, accords with this. Peter quoted this passage:
The basic features or traits that we suggest as generally recognized to be common to totalitarian dictatorships are six in number. The "syndrome", or pattern of interrelated traits, of the totalitarian dictatorship consists of an ideology, a single party typically led by one man, a terroristic police, a communications monopoly, a weapons monopoly and a centrally directed economy.
I have added a different emphasis to that of Peter. To say features are "common to totalitarian dictatorships" is not to say they form part of a definition of totalitarianism, but rather that they have been observed in those that had existed at the time of writing, 1956. That may or may not be the case, but it is not beyond dispute and does not constitute the authoritative analysis. I had suggested it was a convenient form of definition for the left, and that it had been drafted by left wingers. Brzezinski was Carter's National Security Adviser and no foe to an interventionist, centralising state. Friedrich was, well, a little odd:
Friedrich's concept of a "good democracy" rejected basic democracy as totalitarian. Some of the assumptions of Friedrich's theory of totalitarianism - particularly his acceptance of Carl Schmitt's idea of the "constitutional state" -- are viewed as potentially anti-democratic by Hans J. Lietzmann. Klaus von Beyme sees the main focus of Friedrich's theories in the "creation and preservation of robust institutions". This can be seen as influencing his work on the creation of Germany's States' constitutions. He presciently predicted and laid out a theoretical framework for the European Union, and also predicted, from his perspective as a scholar of totalitarianism, that the United States would turn towards dictatorship (his best guess as to when this might occur was the year 2000, which is so far incorrect).
In neither man was a strong view of the proper limitations of the power of the state with respect to the individual very obvious.

Yet this is the issue. Like the proto-Liberals of the eighteenth century whose greatest monument is the American Constitution, I hold that there are proper limits to the role of the state. I hold that it is not so much the case, for example, that it would be wrong for a government to outlaw homosexual, or consensual BDSM, sex but rather that the government has no proper authority to make any ruling whatsoever in the sphere of consensual private adult activities and that for any government to attempt to do so is a form of tyranny.

My argument with Harry Barnes centred, for me, on whether or not he recognises any proper limit to the role of government, and it still appears he does not. It also appears that Peter has missed this point. But Hayek, writing during the second world war, was very much alive to it. First, Hayek made what seems to me from a contemporary perspective to be an observation both chilling and obvious:
... students of the currents of ideas can hardly fail to see that there is more than a superficial similarity between the trend of thought in Germany during and after the last war and the present current of ideas in this country. There exists now in this country certainly the same determination that the organisation of the nation we have achieved for the purposes of defence shall be retained for the purpose of creation. There is the same contempt for nineteenth-century liberalism, the same spurious "realism" and even cynicism, the same fatalistic acceptance of "inevitable trends"...
(p3 of the edition linked to above) That passage still describes our contemporary political culture. But then he went on to analyse and define a new totalitarianism:
The common features of all collectivist systems ... [are the] deliberate organisation of the labours of society for a definite social goal... In many ways this puts the basic issue very clearly. And it directs us at once to the point where the conflict arises between individual freedom and collectivism. The various kinds of collectivism, communism, fascism, etc, differ between themselves... But they all differ from liberalism and individualism in wanting to organise the whoel of society and all its resources for this unitary end, and in refusing to recognise autonomous spheres in which the ends of the individual are supreme. In short, they are totalitarian in the true sense of this new word which we have adopted to describe the unexpected but nevertheless inseparable manifestations of what in theory we call collectivism.
(pp59 & 60).

If we are to trade the opinions of others, like mediaeval theologians seeing your Aquinas and raising you a Duns Scotus, then there is no reason why the earlier definition and analysis of Hayek - which has not been without influence - should not count heavily against that of Carter's Hawk and an obvious crank whose millenarian prophesies of the fall of the USA show no sign of manifesting themselves in the near future, any more than does the Second Coming.

But if we are to exchange ideas we have ourselves considered and formed, then I can return to the point I have been trying to get into the discussion from the very start. I'm not interested in your transport policy, Harry. I'm interested in whether or not we should have a transport policy that can dictate to individuals whether or not they be permitted to own their own means of transport. I think we should not. I think there are limits to the proper role of government and that this falls outside them. And I think it is an entirely accurate description - not an epithet - to say that such a policy is totalitarian.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It's for the children

And for you.

Gordon Brown, today:

"Understand that all the attacks, all the polls, all the headlines, all the criticism, it's all worth it if in doing this job I make life better for one child, one family, on community. Because this job is not about me, it's about you."

As long as you look at her

How Gram Parsons met Emmylou Harris:



And she is beautiful.

Is a dream a lie?

So there you are, busking with your twelve string outside a subway station in Copenhagen, and you're playing a Bruce Springsteen song, and along comes this guy with a guitar in a case, and he wants to play along. And he's Bruce Springsteen:



Click here and you'll find more - Springsteen played a long set. He was - if you'll excuse me - on fire.

The River is a great song. "Is a dream a lie if it don't come true?" If you don't know the answer to that, you've never dreamed.

Here he is when this was raw - 1985:

Monday, September 22, 2008

Nuance

The Republican V.P. nom would be "gang-raped by my big black brothers" if she enters Manhattan, [Sarah] Bernhard said. Palin is said to be making a campaign stop in New York next week.
But don't react too quickly. That was a nuanced statement:
"[The gang rape comment] is part of a much larger, nuanced, and yes, provocative (that's what I do) piece from my show about racism, freedom, women's rights and the extreme views of Governor Sarah Palin, a woman who doesn't believe that other women should have the right to choose," Bernhard told the Daily News today.
And that's certainly hateful - objecting to a woman's right to choose. Feminist solidarity demands nuanced gang-rape in retaliation.

Note, please, that the thought that a white woman should be gang-raped by black men - Bernhard introduced the racial motif here - isn't an extreme view - unlike those of Sarah Palin.



Can you imagine the reaction if anyone even slightly to the right of Che made such a statement?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Collective responsibility

This is a crime, during conflict. If an army kills villagers as a reprisal for an offensive action by an individual, that act of collective responsibility is classed as a war crime.

But what if an army kills villagers who opposed the offending action? Or the inhabitants of another, entirely different, village - even one hostile to the one the perceived offender came from? What is the moral position of that action?

At least Paulie isn't at war.

Public Service Announcement

For the benefit of Iain Dale and others.

This is a man using semaphore to send a message. That's what semaphore is for - sending messages.



Of course, it's a bit old fashioned. Nowadays, if I understand what young people have been telling me, you can use one of these:



Telephones are for sending messages too, although you can just chat if you like. It's a bit laborious to chat with semaphore, though I suppose you could if you had strong arms and were feeling exuberant.

But this isn't for sending messages:



It's a prison. P-R-I-S-O-N. People are kept behind bars, lose their jobs, lose contact with their families. Some kill themselves, others just mutilate themselves. Some get raped or bullied repeatedly without any hope of protection from any authorities.

Their families suffer mental health problems and increased poverty. Their kids suffer the same way, become delinquent, more likely to offend. These family members haven't done anything wrong.

Plus, it's a bit dispiriting to be locked in a cell.



Here's the announcement:

Prisons and the criminal law are not mechanisms for sending fucking messages.

We need to lock up some people. We should lock some people up for much longer than we do right now. These people are entirely and exclusively those who do violence to other people's property or persons. And that's it. They do not include drug takers, who if they are harming anyone are harming themselves alone, something they have every right to do.

Britain's most influential academic

From the Wikipedia entry on moral imbecile Professor Stanley Fish:

Terry Eagleton, generally considered Britain's most influential academic,[7]
Britain's what?

Not even the Independent article referenced by the footnote* makes this claim, instead calling Eagleton "the man who succeeded F R Leavis as Britain's most influential academic critic" (emphasis added).

Is a claim that someone is a country's "most influential academic" even capable of meaning? Even if the Indie had made this claim, would the unevidenced assertion of the country's most avowedly partisan newspaper merit the use of the word "generally"?

Wikipedia is fast becoming a joke, following in the footsteps of Professor Eagleton.

More about Fish.



* I changed the link to go straight to the Independent piece.

Dull or inconsistent?

Harry Barnes has responded to my earlier post in which I, as he puts it, accused him of intellectual inconsistency. He says he isn't inconsistent because he'd like to achieve his goals by democratic means.

I replied, in the comments of his post, as follows:

Thanks for responding.

It depends what you understand totalitarianism to be. Here are three mainstream definitions:

Wikipedia: "Totalitarianism is a term employed by some political scientists, especially those in the field of comparative politics, to describe modern regimes in which the state regulates nearly every aspect of public and private behavior."

Webster's: " 1 : centralized control by an autocratic authority 2 : the political concept that the citizen should be totally subject to an absolute state authority "

Encarta: "Totalitarianism, in political science, system of government and ideology in which all social, political, economic, intellectual, cultural, and spiritual activities are subordinated to the purposes of the rulers of a state."

Your first two proposals fit these definitions, I'm afraid. You lay claim to control of the totality of my being, especially with respect to the transport proposal. It makes no difference that you say you want to achieve totalitarianism by democratic means.

I've noticed in discussions with some on the left that they associate totalitarianism with violence. That association has happened but it's not intrinsic to totalitarianism - it's more that totalitarianism, democratic or not, winds up needing it to function - and repression occurs in regimes that are not totalitarian, such as authoritarian ones.

I'm sorry, you are inconsistent.
I think this debate boils down to little more than this: some totalitarians dislike being called totalitarian. That's too bad.


UPDATE: Also see The Thunderdragon and Matt Wardman.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Unanticipated benefit

Canadian members of the social networking website Facebook are taking down their profile photos to protest the Canadian government’s decision to reduce funding for the arts.


From, via.

Fatuous piece of left wing distortion of the week

This:

This week on ‘I did not know that!…with Naomi Klein’, we have this little nugget about Ford. Apparently, Ford was very pleased with the Argentine Government’s brutal repression of its people, and it helped out where it could.

“It was in Argentina, however, that the involvement of Ford’s local subsidiary with the terror apparatus was most overt. The company supplied cars to the military, and the green Ford Falcon sedan was the vehicle used for thousands of kidnappings and disappearances. The Argentine psychologist and playwright Eduardo Pavlovsky described the car as “the symbolic expression of terror. A death-mobile.”

I did not know that!

(Excerpt from ‘The Shock Doctrine’ the book you can’t read at night because it makes you too angry to sleep.)
Grahan Linehan is right about Klein making her readers angry, but he is worse. Take this line: "Ford was very pleased with the Argentine Government’s brutal repression of its people, and it helped out where it could". Even by the abysmal standards of reflexive leftist partisanship it's revolting to suggest that Ford was "pleased" with the existence of a repressive regime. Linehan seems to exist in a world where people who disagree with him, and other bogeymen like businessmen, are creatures of absolute evil. Inevitably, this leads him to excesses of spite. In this post he exults in the recent robbery of a Republican delegate.

Klein is not much better. Toyota pickups have become the favourite vehicle of Islamist terrorists. Is Toyota to blame for this? How would they stop their pickups getting into the hands of terrorist groups? The Ford Falcon was strongly associated with the security forces in Argentina and was a symbol of repression. Was there anything more to it than the Argentinians thinking the cars were batmobile-cool and buying them - whatever Ford might think?

Well, possibly. Allegedly, there were links between Ford and the Junta. And between Mercedes-Benz and the Junta. And between pretty much every large company in every sector of industry and the Junta. That's what Juntas are like: totalitarian, which is to say brutal, corrupt and controlling. And here is where Klein's allegation comes from:
During the 1980's, an investigation by the National Commission on Disappeared Persons, a government body, found that abductions of workers occurred at Ford, Mercedes-Benz and other factories owned by both Argentine and foreign interests, including shipyards, steel mills and pharmaceutical plants.

By some accounts, about half of the estimated 15,000 to 30,000 people who disappeared during the dictatorship were workers or union leaders.

The prosecutor who filed the charges against Ford, FĂ©lix Crous, said both automakers not only colluded with the military, but also profited as the junta's campaign of kidnappings and killings made targets of workers and union leaders.

Each company, he said, had particularly close ties with the military as suppliers. Mercedes-Benz made trucks for the army, while Ford made the greenish-gray Falcons used by death squads in the kidnapping of thousands of people.
And here's the bit she leaves out:
Both Ford and Mercedes-Benz were targets of the left-wing Montonero urban guerrilla movement during the chaotic period of political violence that preceded the March 1976 military takeover in Argentina.

A Mercedes-Benz executive was kidnapped and released only after the payment of a multimillion-dollar ransom. Ford withdrew its American employees from Argentina after at least two executives were ambushed and killed and others were injured between 1973 and 1975.
Businesses were caught in the crossfire. The idea that Ford would like being in an environment where its executives were kidnapped and murdered and it couldn't do business without bought protection and kickbacks is absurd. Even the report above, which appears to be Klein's source, shows Ford liked Argentina so much it withdrew all its American employees from the country.

There would be a case for saying that Ford should have ceased operations in or after the military coup of 1966, though no doubt that would have led to people like Klein accusing them of abandoning tens of thousands of workers. Maybe she'd have got a book out of it: Vulture Capitalism, perhaps? But staying there and continuing to trade meant selling cars to whoever wanted to buy them, including men with reflecting shades. While the Falcon might have been associated with the Junta in the popular mind in Argentina, Ford as a company wasn't and they have managed to stay in business there under very challenging conditions since the liberation from military rule.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Creationism in science classes

Norm thinks that the "Royal Society should be ashamed of itself". Harry's Place called for its readers to "Defend Michael Reiss". Chris Dillow thinks the episode shows that "[s]ome scientists seem to do a bad job of defending science".

The background is as follows:

[Reiss's] resignation comes after a campaign by senior Royal Society Fellows who were angered by Professor Reiss’s suggestion that science teachers should treat creationist beliefs “not as a misconception but as a world view”.
[...]

The furore came after a speech given by Professor Reiss to the British Association for the Advancement of Science last week, in which he said that teachers should accept that they were unlikely to change the minds of pupils with creationist beliefs.

“My experience after having tried to teach biology for 20 years is if one simply gives the impression that such children are wrong, then they are not likely to learn much about the science,” he said.

“I realised that simply banging on about evolution and natural selection didn’t lead some pupils to change their minds at all. Just because something lacks scientific support doesn’t seem to me a sufficient reason to omit it from the science lesson . . . There is much to be said for allowing students to raise any doubts they have — hardly a revolutionary idea in science teaching — and doing one’s best to have a genuine discussion.”
There is a context which Reiss's supporters haven't seemed to take into account. Creationism was Reiss's topic, rather than Astrology or Alchemy - each of which have arguably a better claim for inclusion in broad discussions in science classes because though unscientific, they were both in some ways precursors to the genuine sciences of astronomy and chemistry. Why creationism?

There is a fierce campaign under way to crowbar this superstition into science classes - it is already included in religious education lessons. You'll have read about the various court battles in the USA. An extremist creationist has won a court order in Turkey, banning access to Richard Dawkins' website for the entire country. In the face of this campaign, Reiss's comments were completely unacceptable. Although a minister himself, and therefore unusually religious, he was speaking as an officer of one of the most important scientific institutions in the world. And he was trying to open the gates to the enemy.

What happens in science classes now when teachers are confronted by children who subscribe to these primitive delusions? Steve picked up recently on a television series made by Richard Dawkins:
In this episode he confronted a group of science teachers about their reluctance to challenge the creationist views of some school children. He blamed multi-culturalism:
The compromised values of multi-cultural Britain mean that teachers hesitate to offend the religious beliefs of their pupils, even when these directly contradict scientific fact.
The exchange with the teachers is illuminating, if somewhat depressing. Cowed by the fear of what might happen to them if they offended religious pupils, they had clearly given up the fight.

One teacher, trying to explain how difficult it is to change the mind of someone brought up to believe creationist myths as truth, revealed just how far multi-culturalist language has seeped into schools.
All we can do is present this as a way of thinking. It's one way of interpreting life. We believe this is the way because we are scientists.
Dawkins was incredulous. His voice rising, he asked:
We believe it because we are scientists?! Do you really mean that? Or do you mean you believe it because the evidence is there. Their evidence is not there. It's just made up.
There was an embarrassed silence as the penny dropped. Indoctrinated by years of multi-cultural relativism, these scientists had found themselves saying that science was just one way of understanding how the world was created. Whether or not they believed that was beside the point. Judging by their faces, I don't think they did but they knew what they had to say to survive in today's classrooms.
Teachers are already besieged by creationism and under perceived or real pressure not to challenge it too confidently. Reiss must be aware of this background, as the (now former) director of education at the Royal Society. He was placing the teaching of rationalism under even greater pressure than it faces already.

He should have been sacked, not allowed to resign.

Cognitive dissonance

A Normblog Profile has just been published for former Labour MP Harry Barnes.It includes this:

If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > To limit the use of private transport to emergency services, with public transport being publicly owned and freely available, whilst planning for the huge economic and social consequences which would follow.
It includes this:
What would you do with the UN? > Restructure it to run world-wide military and financial controls.
And immediately following the above two, without any apparent sense of irony, it includes this:
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > A wide range of totalitarian dogmas.

UPDATE: See also my reply to Harry Barnes' reply.

The political views of teachers

"Schools should be centres of learning and tolerance, not a breeding ground for the poisonous views of the BNP."
That's Christina McAnea from Unison, speaking about Adam Walker, a BNP member, and officer of the BNP's Trade Union "Solidarity", who could be struck off the register of teachers and therefore lose his livelihood because he used school computers to leave online comments critical of immigration, Muslims, asylum seekers and 'the promotion of homosexuality'.

The BNP's views are hateful, and hate-filled. The topics Walker posted about are groups of people, not abstract ideas. They are people who can become targets of hate. It would be very bad if children were influenced by this sort of systematic organising of people into groups that can be hated.

Unfortunately, though, that's exactly what's happening anyway. The left can offer a hatred for every taste: invariably class, sometimes race, occasionally sexuality.

The BNP are non-conformist left-wingers. They do subscribe to mainstream leftist ideas about a class divide, and want to see more worker-ownership of businesses, but do not advocate large scale nationalisation to achieve this. Their approach is more like that of the Green Party.

They are obsessed not just with Jews, as are so many on the left, but also with skin colour, which is less common. Where it exists, the skin colour prejudice most commonly found on the left holds those with pale skin collectively accountable for crimes committed by their ancestors, even though the sorts of crimes their ancestors committed were also committed by the ancestors of people of every colour. The BNP invert this, preferring pale skin.

Their sexual prejudices are socially conservative. Unlike most socially conservative left-wingers - most people who vote for parties of the left fall into this category - the BNP are open about their sexual prejudices and in some cases make them policy. Normally, on the left, this is left to extremist, man-hating feminists who come up with entirely different policies to those of the BNP; no less hateful and hate-filled, just different.

There's nothing uniquely harmful about the BNP among all the parties of the left. In some ways they are less harmful than the mainstream - impotent, ineffective, fractious, their antecedent parties killed a mere 60 million people in the twentieth century, compared to the 150 million murdered by their Marxist cousins. International socialists still enslave hundreds of millions of people; National socialists no longer have the power to enslave anybody, although Russia's transition from international to national socialism threatens to change this.

Schoolteachers from some, Marxist, parts of the left can proselytise, let alone hold hate-filled private opinions, without objection from Unison officials. There is no suggestion that this BNP-supporting teacher tried to proselytise. His opinions were private. Tim is right about this case:
The line has to be drawn somewhere and if we’re to remain a free society it’s got to be that membership of a legal group, whatever their views, cannot be a bar to employment.


So this member of the BNP is one of the scoundrels H.L. Mencken warned we would have to defend if we are to defend freedom of speech and thought. But the issue of politics and school teaching goes further.

Schoolchildren are subjected to open political bias in their programmed learning, not just by some form of osmosis when they come into contact with teachers with pronounced opinions, and this open bias favours the Marxist tradition. If we should be concerned about politics in schools, this is what we should be concerned about.

UPDATE: Coincidentally, David Thompson just linked to a particularly egregious example of academic bias:
Metro State College is investigating a professor who asked students to write an essay critical of Republican vice presidential candidate Gov. Sarah Palin. One student said the instructor singled out Republican students in the class and allowed others to ridicule them.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dark secret time

Yup. Talent shows. I love 'em. And like Simon, I love this girl:



Luminous voice.

Ninja cat

You've seen the Ninja cat, haven't you?

You haven't?

Here you are:

World of confusion

Alas, there are so few of them, and they never leave their country – probably due to their love of autocrats.
Tim Blair being inscrutable. Click through for the confusion.

Quote of the day

I'd thought they would have learnt their lesson from the dwarf episode.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I make love to 10,000 people

... then I go home alone.

Janis:

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

We haven't the proper facilities...

William Goldman wrote some of the best screenplays - Marathon Man, Butch Cassidy - and A Bridge Too Far. He had some problems with the latter, with American audiences on the test screenings. They thought that scenes like this - drawn from accurate accounts of the battle for the bridge at Arnhem - were fanciful.



The officer
whose mouth these words were originally put in also had a problem. He asked Goldman to dinner. This man had led the British fight at that bridge, but he was mortified. He hadn't actually said those words. "People will think I'm making more of myself than I am," he told Goldman over the starters.

The words had been said to the Germans: "We can't accept your surrender". But not by him. There's a definition of a certain type of Britishness right there.

The slave scale

"Son, if the mountain was smooth you couldn't climb it."
Wintley Phipps was told that by an old woman from the American south.

Here he talks about words written by John Newton, a slave trader before he became a Christian, and set to a melody he heard "coming up from the belly of a slave ship". The song is listed as words by Newton, melody by "unknown". You know it - Amazing Grace.



Phipps hopes when he goes to Heaven he'll meet that slave called "unknown". Perhaps Leann Rimes feels the same way:

Subversive Elvis

I can't really think what might have shown greater integrity for a man accused*, in his youth, of being a "nigger lover" - and be more subversive - than to make eyes damp in the Las Vegas of the 1970s singing this song, In The Ghetto. We have a black man with a gun and attitude seen as an "angry young man" driven by hunger of a very much non-metaphorical kind.




*Not that he ever seemed particularly concerned by, or even interested in, those accusations.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Good stuff from Obama

This makes a refreshing change from the sort of waffle he seems to spend most of his time coming out with:

Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason.
That's one of the best summaries of secularism I've seen.


Via Bob.

Warbama

Christopher Hitchens:

And that, I think, is another reason why so many people are reluctant to employ truthful descriptions for the emerging Afghan-Pakistan confrontation: American liberals can't quite face the fact that if their man does win in November, and if he has meant a single serious word he's ever said, it means more war, and more bitter and protracted war at that—not less.
The war in question being, by implication, against Pakistan or its proxies.

Harvest time

Cold:

Harvesting machines have been unable to operate on the sodden land, root crops are in danger of rotting in the soil and outdoor fruit crops have largely been ruined.

The National Farmers' Union has said that a week of unbroken weather is essential for farmers to begin tackling the backlog.
Getting warmer:
Guy Gagen, chief arable adviser at the National Farmers Union, said farmers could be fined thousands of pounds if they broke the heavy machinery rules.

"They [the Government] say it is to protect soil structure but when you have thousands of pounds worth of crops in the field you have to get it harvested. You can restore any ruts later.

"It is an enormous frustration. This rule was put in when food production was not considered important and now that is clearly not the case.

"Farmers will technically be breaking the law and facing a fine if they harvest their fields when it is wet."

A spokesman for Defra said the measure to stop farmers from using motorised vehicles on waterlogged soils was introduced to "protect soils from compaction and structural damage caused by using vehicles when the soil is too wet".
Hot:
European Union machinery rules and prolonged rain mean the crops may rot in the wet fields before they can be collected.

The EU rules ban farmers from using combine harvesters on wet land to protect soil quality

Global warming and the law

Lawyer David T at Harry's Place rather breathlessly titled his post about the recent acquittal of Greenpeace activists: Criminal Damage now Legal . But that isn't what has happened.

The defence argued that the protesters had "lawful excuse" because they were seeking to prevent a greater harm - the apocalypse that will be caused by human carbon emissions.

I haven't seen an account of the proceedings, but wonder how the government, or any state prosecutor, could have countered this argument. After all, a great deal of government policy is built on the same, probably untrue, idea.

This makes global warming, or more broadly the re-brand as climate change, the perfect legal argument. A prosecution could not counter it, as a matter of political policy.

Quote of the day

“Palin Power” isn’t just about making hockey moms feel important. It’s not just about giving abortion rights opponents their due. It’s also, in obscure ways, about making yearnings come true — deep, inchoate desires about respect and service, hierarchy and family that have somehow been successfully projected onto the figure of this unlikely woman and have stuck.

For those of us who can’t tap into those yearnings, it seems the Palin faithful are blind – to the contradictions between her stated positions and the truth of the policies she espouses, to the contradictions between her ideology and their interests. But Jonathan Haidt, an associate professor of moral psychology at the University of Virginia, argues in an essay this month, “What Makes People Vote Republican?”, that it’s liberals, in fact, who are dangerously blind.

Haidt has conducted research in which liberals and conservatives were asked to project themselves into the minds of their opponents and answer questions about their moral reasoning. Conservatives, he said, prove quite adept at thinking like liberals, but liberals are consistently incapable of understanding the conservative point of view. “Liberals feel contempt for the conservative moral view, and that is very, very angering. Republicans are good at exploiting that anger,” he told me in a phone interview.

Perhaps that’s why the conservatives can so successfully get under liberals’ skin. And why liberals need to start working harder at breaking through the empathy barrier.
Judith Warner, NY Times.

Reading this, I wondered whether conservatives and right-liberals understand left-liberals better than they are understood in return because many of them used to be left-liberals.

Palin skit

There's some euphoria in the Democrat-supporting media, mainstream and otherwise, following a very funny impersonation of Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live. I'm not embedding it, but instead directing you to one left wing blog, Harry's Place, where you can watch it and also enjoy some of the comments.

The skit was a very gentle, by British standards, piece of satire, poking fun at both Palin and Hilary Clinton. I'd suggest that perhaps the general respectfulness of mainstream American satire and comment is the reason why the left wing fringes are so disgusting, but in fact the same levels of malice and venom can be seen in every country, on the left, so that argument doesn't hold water.

The Harry's Place post shows the clip, then adds:

I suspect, however, that [the impersonator] is rather more qualified to serve as vice president of the United States.
That's a fatuous remark, but as such it's just the latest in a series rather than a sorry exception. It's also a sign of the depth the left has sunk to, with respect to Mrs Palin, that a simple piece of ordinary political satire should be hailed with relief and enthusiasm. After more than a week of the most disgusting smear campaign in modern political history, anything - anything - that doesn't turn the stomach is a coup.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Small town values

Very funny Daily Show clip over at Mr E's.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Sign and publicise, please

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to give all Ex Gurkha soldiers and their families who have served our country British citizenship on leaving the service.
Here.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I don't care

The attacks on Palin's kids, the insinuations about her pregnancy, there have been aspects of the behaviour of some Democrat supporters that have been revolting. But Obama talking about a pig with lipstick? Biden forgetting someone was in a wheelchair?

So what? I don't care. It's getting stupid.

And they broke me

I hadn't listened to McCain's acceptance speech before. 46 minutes in. Nothing - nothing even remotely like this - has been said in a political speech before.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

In memoriam

of Abigail Becker:

Farmer and homemaker born in Frontenac County, Upper Canada, on March 14, 1830

A tall, handsome woman "who feared God greatly and the living or dead not at all," she married a widower with six children and settled in a trapper's cabin on Long Point, Lake Erie. On Nov. 23, 1854, with her husband away, she single-handedly rescued the crew of the schooner Conductor of Buffalo, which had run aground in a storm. The crew had clung to the frozen rigging all night, not daring to enter the raging surf. In the early morning, she waded chin-high into the water (she could not swim) and helped seven men reach shore. She was awarded medals for heroism and received $350 collected by the people of Buffalo, plus a handwritten letter from Queen Victoria that was accompanied by £50, all of which went toward buying a farm. She lost her husband to a storm, raised 17 children alone and died at Walsingham Centre, Ont.
But not of Camille Paglia, whose storming column almost redeems Salon magazine from the pit it has sunk into recently.


(I've forgotten where I saw this linked to. Sorry.)

Contempt for the working class

I copied some of Chris Dillow's recent post in my last. Here it is again, with my gloss:

Think of all the policies that could improve the condition of the working class:
The condition of the working class can only be improved by policies imposed from above. They can do nothing for themselves.
a reform of education to break the link between parental income and school quality;
We must remove all possibilities that parents - of any class - can have any affect on the outcomes their children will enjoy. People should not be allowed to do anything for themselves.
more redistributive taxation;
We should take other people's money and give it to them.
a citizens’ basic income;
We should take other people's money and give it to them.
democratization of the police force and removal of illiberal laws (such as those against drugs) that impose disproportionately upon the poor;
No, illiberal drug laws affect us all. Democratisation of the police will be used more by the middle classes than anyone else. This has no more to do, and perhaps less, with the working class than with any other group in society
an assault upon the causes of inequalities in life expectancy;
We should take other people's money and give it to them.
nationalization of mortgage lending or utilities;
use of government procurement policies to promote the growth of worker co-ops;
We should take other people's money and give it to them. (That's what buying at higher than necessary prices means, and if coops could offer competitive tenders there'd be no need for any intervention.)
encouraging “democratic finance” so people can insure themselves against risks to their industries or occupations.
We should take other people's money and give it to them.

The idea that the only thing the working class needs is a removal of choice and autonomy - an even greater one than the circumstances we currently face - and the donation to them of other people's money is contemptuous. Hay and a barn for human cattle.

What can we do for the working class?

Two blog posts, compare and contrast:












Stumbling and Mumbling

Nightjack

Think of all the policies that could improve the condition of the working class

Over the years a lot of retired people have lived in Carousel Gardens. Certainly many widows with a sprinkling of single gents who like to stay smart, have a few beers at the Social Club of an evening and will help the lady neighbour out with a bit of shopping or fixing a shelf. Their houses are pin tidy, sparkling net curtains, clean windows and on every toilet roll a cosy.

a reform of education to break the link between parental income and school quality

There are good reasons why the older residents say that the whole place has gone down hill in the last few years. There are some very good reasons why they don’t really feel safe after dark or alone outside.

more redistributive taxation

Who in their right mind puts a heroin dealer / handler of stolen goods on a retirement estate?

a citizens’ basic income

What was the reasoning that settled the alcoholic prostitute and her ASBO hell child next to a quiet and retiring war widow?

democratization of the police force and removal of illiberal laws (such as those against drugs) that impose disproportionately upon the poor

When the applicant for tenancy is a 25 year old with burglary / theft convictions and M.O.s that run along the lines of “After forming friendship with elderly woman, over a period of 3 months systematically stole all items of value from her house and withdrew all cash in her accounts” why are you sending him to criminal heaven by giving him a flat on a retirement estate?

an assault upon the causes of inequalities in life expectancy

Did you really think that the 70 year old retired gateman would appreciate having a 22 year old career alcoholic, 24/7 banging tunes and a passing cast of non-stop party people mates living underneath him?

nationalization of mortgage lending or utilities

The local housing trust in Alterdale might as well have thrown a shoal of barracuda into a goldfish tank.

use of government procurement policies to promote the growth of worker co-ops; encouraging “democratic finance” so people can insure themselves against risks to their industries or occupations.

They haven’t got a clue, don’t care or worse still have no choice in the matter in the face of a rights and entitlement culture that is entirely one way.


And then tell me which blogger best understands the situation of the poor in Britain.

Then maybe you can help answer Laban's question:
Hmm. Organised crime gangs who pass information to each other and who move quickly round whole regions ? Who could these folk be ?
[...]
Hundreds of officers to arrest eight men in widely differing locations ? The men must either be be very dangerous, have lots of violent mates, or both. What manner of rural community could create such a necessity ?
And then one of mine: why do we protect the predators by not even identifying them? Not in news reports, not in posts about those most consistently preyed on by them - the poor.

Yup

That's a very good spot, Prof.

To save you clicking twice - though you can if you like - yesterday was the anniversary of another smear against a Republican.

Cognitive dissonance

I have a feeling Garry Kamiya typed this one handed:

Palin comes across not as a fantasy pinup, but as a dominatrix.
And it has been picked up on around the place as yet another example of Democrat lunacy. But here's the line that jumped out at me:
She praises altruism and selflessness, except when Democrats do it (or it involves helping poor black people).
Because the Democrats don't do altruism as much as Republicans - who give more time and money to charitable causes even though they average lower earnings.

Republicans help people, Democrats want to outsource this responsibility to the government. That isn't the same thing at all.

24 hours

Julia thinks this deserves the "Post of the month" award.

She might be understating the case.

Shadows and farming

Fascinating essay here by Bruce Schneier. Identity farming and data shadows.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Oh dear

Burning Our Money is one of the best UK blogs, but this is a bit disappointing:

But never mind the money, when they throw that switch, what chance we pay that other price in terms of human existence?

Nah. Beer's not only cheaper, but a whole lot safer.
Wibble about the LHC threatening our existence is the proper subject of crank conspiracy sites, not forensic financial blogs.


UPDATE: Via, David T at Harry's Place, I see there's a web site that the BoM blogger can use to track whether we're all dead yet: http://www.hasthelhcdestroyedtheearth.com/.

Heavy metal

Nobody seems to have stood up the idea that organic food is better for you than conventional. But what if it's worse?

For example, in 2007, researchers conducted an analysis of wheat grown on various farms in Belgium; based on the results, they estimate that consumers of organically grown wheat take in more than twice as much lead, slightly more cadmium, and nearly equivalent levels of mercury as consumers of wheat grown on conventional farms.
I buy organic sometimes. I want some wildlife to exist. But I'd prefer to find some way of feeling confident of that while avoiding the sanctimonious priesthood of the Soil Association.

Are you diversity aware?

From the immeasurably valuable UK Film Council's online Diversity Toolkit:

Test your awareness and understanding of some key diversity issues in the film industry.

This is just for fun.
And by George, it is fun. Here's question one:
You are staffing the box office when a blind woman asks for tickets for the next fully accessible screening for her and her sighted friend. Do you:
a) Tell them it’s fully booked. Why would a blind person want to go the cinema anyway?

b) Give her tickets for the next screening and point them towards the screening room. Her friend will describe the action to her.

c) Check whether you have audio-description available and ask if she’d like to use it. If she would, make sure it’s set up in time for the screening.
I'm just so proud that money is taken from poor people to give to middle class web designers and consultants to produce resources like this.

Disclosure

[Conflict of Interest Disclosure: This article was written partially under the influence of oolong tea, diet cherry Coke, and California chardonnay.]
From an essay about drug legalisation at Cato Unbound.

Caucus rigging for Obama?

Gigi Gaston doesn't seem to have much of a political footprint. So it's striking that she has chosen to make a documentary film called We Will Not Be Silenced, cataloguing alleged abuses of process, tantamount to ballot rigging, in favour of Barak Obama's campaign for the Democratic nomination.

This documentary is about the disenfranchising of American citizens by the Democratic Party and the Obama Campaign. We the People have made this film. Democrats have sent in their stories from all parts of America. We want to be heard and let the country know how our party has sanctioned the actions of what we feel are Obama campaign "Chicago Machine" dirty politics. We believe this infamous campaign of "change" from Chicago encouraged and created an army to steal caucus packets, falsify documents, change results, allow unregistered people to vote, scare and intimidate Hillary supporters, stalk them, threaten them, lock them out of their polling places, silence their voices and stop their right to vote, which is, of course, all documented in "We Will Not Be Silenced."




Thanks to Peter Horne in the comments here.

Don't ridicule Palin

Predictably, Christopher Hitchens gets it:

Interviewed by Rick Warren at the grotesque Saddleback megachurch a short while ago, Sen. Barack Obama announced that Jesus had died on the cross to redeem him personally. How he knew this he did not say. But it will make it exceedingly difficult for him, or his outriders and apologists, to ridicule Palin for her own ludicrous biblical literalist beliefs.

Unofficial McCain ad

This has received more than a million views in less than a week. I'm not sure what Obama's response to this sort of attack could be. After all, his policy (now being blurred round the edges) of immediate troop withdrawal would, in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, be a betrayal of every sacrifice made by American service men and women.

Palin's change

I've been trawling the blogs and MSM sites. The big change is that now the Republicans are having fun. The Dems aren't.

Bob Hope

Comments from beyond the grave on the current US Presidential election:

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Quote of the day

Hand me the gun. No, the bigger one.
David Thompson

Friday, September 05, 2008

Google's EULA in perspective

From Ars:

It's worth noting that the EULA is largely unenforceable because the source code of Chrome is distributed under an open license. Users could simply download the source code, compile it themselves, and use it without having to agree to Google's EULA. The terms of the BSD license under which the source code is distributed are highly permissive and impose virtually no conditions or requirements on end users.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Free blogs

European Union murmurings about blog control are exercising writers over here, but it could be worse:

According to the police, Yevloyev was "by accident" shot in the temple while being driven in a police car. Yevloyev died in a hospital in Nazran, Ingushetia.
Who?
Magomed Yevloyev, owner of opposition Internet site www.ingushetiya.ru, is the most high-profile Russian journalist to be killed since investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya was shot outside her Moscow apartment in October 2006.

Police said Yevloyev, who was a leading opponent of Ingushetia's Kremlin-backed leader Murat Zyazikov
The French government is concerned enough to have issued a statement:
We were distressed to learn of the death of Magomed Yevloyev, the owner of ingushetya.ru, an independent news website specialized in the Caucasus, in Nazran, Ingushetia.

We hope the investigation under way will shed all possible light on this case.

We are deeply concerned by the attacks against the freedom of the press and, more generally, by the violence in the already unstable region of the North Caucasus.
The US government has called for a proper investigation of the case.

Nothing from here so far. Surprised? No, perhaps not.

More from Human Rights First.

Arctic ice a problem

This is very funny. Two young environmental enthusiasts, paddling in kayaks to the North Pole to draw attention to the retreating ice, have got stuck in the ice - at a latitude that was navigable in 1922.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

That's it!

I knew a toddler once who, every time she soiled her nappy, said "Good girl" to herself, as a form of reassurance. She'd be playing or drawing and pause, then say "Good girl", and you knew she needed to be changed. It was touching and useful.

I'd been trying to figure out what the barrage of comment from the left reminded me of - the barrage of remarks about how Sarah Palin was a disaster for the GOP, a scandal-ridden embarrassment, how the Republican vetting process has failed, or didn't exist.

That's what it reminds me of. That little girl. Only in this case, the ordure has been dumped on the self-reassurers by their political opponents.

UKIP and Robin Page

There's a bit of a skirmish about the circumstances under which Robin Page was unable to become a candidate for UKIP. Iain Dale wrote about it, repeating Page's allegations about how UKIP was "Zimbabwean" in its procedures. Tim Worstall, in his new capacity as UKIP's Press Officer responded (also on Dale's post).

I can't comment about that, but I have met Robin Page - I was once married to his co-presenter on a regional television programme. I have the highest regard for the work of his Countryside Restoration Trust that seeks to "show that commercial farming can co-exist with conservation".

But I suspect UKIP hasn't done too badly out of this series of events. When I met him at his house, Page spent about ten minutes explaining how the "unnatural" aberration that is homosexuality is caused by high levels of female hormones in drinking water, or was it in fish? I confess my attention was wandering.

I don't think he would be an unalloyed electoral asset for a party that is trying to throw off the impression it's a refuge for reactionary cranks, in order to become a mainstream force - something that Nigel Farage's leadership has shown flickering signs of making possible.

Oxymoron of the day

These Republican hicks are not to be underestimated
Steve Bell, Guardian cartoonist, at the Republican convention (frame 11).

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

An operating system in a window

I was wondering who'd spot this first. So far as I can see, it was Lubos Motl:

In fact, it is not only a new browser. It is probably a beta version of the new "operating system" that Google wants to use to take over the world.
My head start is that ten years ago it was part of the plot of a novel I was Peter Cooking.

Peter Cook drew a cartoon once. Two people at a party. One says "I'm writing a novel". The other replies, "Neither am I".

Back to the real world, Google's new browser looks interesting. There's been speculation it will hurt Firefox. Nope. First, it's structured so that Mozilla can use the bits they like, especially, and most importantly, the javascript virtual machine. Secondly, Firefox is an application development framework in which a web browser was implemented. Mozilla were there first. They're on the bus. There's one company that can't afford to get on it. They're the ones who are hurting.

Can you guess who?

UPDATE: I'm going to hedge that. Mozilla could very well suffer some immediate collateral damage (I'm waiting with bated breath for a Linux/Unix version of Chrome), but how's that going to affect their income stream from a free browser? They have paved the way for Google's Chrome by getting people used to the idea of downloading a browser. Google has so much more penetration that they'll get people even more used to that. Given a future leapfrog from the Mozilla foundation and this added penetration will help them.

But both Firefox and Chrome break the Microsoft paradigm, and that's only going to hurt one company.

UPDATE: Bumped up from the comments - Obnoxio has some important things to say about Chrome's trustworthiness. Thanks, Obnoxio.

P J Speech

An old speech, from the time of the Clinton administration.





One line I didn't recognise, about rights and entitlements. They are not freedom, they are "hay and a barn for human cattle".

Hockey Stick revived

Michael Mann's controversial "hockey stick" reconstruction of the historical climate has been relaunched, under slightly unusual circumstances. While press releases and in some cases further details have been sent to sympathetic bloggers and news outlets, his actual paper hasn't been published yet and no data has been released. This makes it impossible for anyone of an analytical bent to assess how valid his new reconstruction is.

This of course gives alarmists a free run while the more considered commentators have to wait to see how valid the work really is. Last time, it wasn't valid.

All that can really be said so far, from graphs released so far, is that one of the most debatable aspects of the original seems to have remained in place. The graph is unexceptional when it consists just of proxy data, but then at the end an instrument-derived bit is tacked on and this, and apparently this alone, produced the twentieth-century spike that gives the graph its name.

An articulate campaigner

Al Gore:

The tension can plague even the most informed and articulate campaigners. “One of the many complexities that complicate the task I’ve undertaken is complexity,” said Al Gore, the former vice president who won a Noble Peace Prize for his environmental work.


Via.

Economic creationism

This has been in my mind for a while now, coalescing into a post. Turns out Don Boudreaux wrote it up four years ago and he's just reposted it:

Just as there is a compelling non-creationist view of biological beings, there is a compelling non-creationist view of social order. And while obviously different in detail, at a general level these two non-creationist theories share much with each other, not least of which is the scientific insistence that order is best explained, not by positing a creator, but by understanding the logic of an order’s emergence from small, individual acts, no one of which is “intended to” (or “intends” itself) to become part of a larger order. (And remember, Adam Smith offered his “invisible hand” theory a century before Darwin offered his.)
Passing rapidly over the "invisible hand" reference (before this blog gets reprimanded by Gavin Kennedy), it does seem strange to me that people who are very able to conceive of a natural world in which free, unregulated individual actions give rise to complex, well-integrated, high-functioning and continuously adaptable systems seem unable to extend this concept to human affairs.

The Nasty Parties

Here's one Daily Kos blogger, writing about Sarah Palin's daughter's pregnancy:

Oh, but she's KEEPING it. Wonderful. What's the name going to be: Bareback?
The Palin announcement has been the political equivalent of turning over a flat rock.

In the UK, the Heresiarch suggests:
... to return to Vicki Woods's question - when did Labour first become the Nasty Party?

That wouldn't be my question. More to the point, what people should be asking themselves is this: When did I first notice that Labour was the Nasty Party?

Palindrone

Gene at Harry's Place, writing about Sarah Palin:

So doesn’t a woman (or a man, for that matter) with a Down’s Syndrome baby and a pregnant teenage daughter have a responsibility to her family than she does to the rather time-consuming task of running for vice president and serving as Alaska’s governor? Please don’t tell me she can simply “do it all.”
Gene's comments were met with tepid enthusiasm, especially by women commentators.

Andrew Sullivan:
The salient political issues of the Palin pick are two-fold: Can Palin be trusted to tell the truth? And how competent is a campaign that picks a candidate without any serious vetting of stuff that can appear on the Internet within a few hours of the news? We need to refocus on those core questions. I fear the answers are: we can't trust Palin to tell the truth; and the manner of McCain's pick demonstrates some of the most grotesque incompetence in modern political history.
Andrew isn't distinguishing between things the Republican vetters were aware of and willing to wave through, and things the rest of us weren't yet aware of.

Meanwhile, it seems Palin comes from Alaska's "Bible Belt" - this piece by an Alaskan illustrated by the following picture:



I lived in Wasilla for about four months, in the early 1980s. I'm pretty sure the establishment above was called Huppy's Roadhouse back then. I spent about one night a week there. Behind the photographer's right shoulder was a restaurant that did an all-you-can-eat Sunday breakfast. They used to flinch visibly when they saw me walking across the gravel towards them, newspapers under an arm.

Happy days. But I can tell you this - Wasilla ain't no Bible Belt. "Full of mutants and outlaws", as one Anchorage resident described it to me, was nearer the truth.

I've never seen either political wing so rattled by a running mate choice. McCain must be blowing the smoke from the end of his gun barrel.