Assorted Steyns

Lord Steyn seems like a sensible chap. Judges and Lords appear to be approximately the only people in authority at the moment willing to stand up for the public’s rights; the elected government would prefer to trample all over them.

I wonder if he’s related to Mark, whose views on the subject of Guantanamo are rather less pro-freedom (although admittedly, his writing on postwar musicals is excellent.)

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Credit where it’s due

My more regular readers may have spotted that I’m not the greatest fan of George W Bush. However, one news item from his London trip (which I missed at the time) has increased my respect for the man.

Saying “I believe we worship the same god” when referring to Christians and Muslims isn’t terribly controversial among mainstream theologians. Not only are they both monotheistic, they’re both descended from Judaism.

However, Mr Bush relies on people who aren’t exactly mainstream theologians for much of his support – the Muslim-hating, bring-on-the-apocalypse religous right. Predictably, they were out in force. Less predictably, they borrowed the traditionally left-wing tactic of insulting the president’s intelligence: “We should always remember that he is commander in chief, not theologian in chief”, according to Southern Baptist Richard D Land.

While it’s depressing that the leader of the Free World (TM) is in a position where these people’s views are of any relevance whatsoever, it’s nice to know that he’s prepared to ignore them and risk negative consequences. One cheer for Dubya!

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Jolly good fellows

A bit of a housekeeping/incestuous blogging commentary post here; it’s been weeks since the last one so hopefully I can be forgiven…

1) Happy blogbirthday to Harry Hatchet and Friends. Just in case you haven’t seen it already, it’s excellent. Although Johann Hari should post more often. And they should blogroll me ;-)

2) I’ve made a few changes to the site design, providing things like obvious permalinks, dealing properly with updated posts, etc. Suggestions on what else needs doing are welcome. Also, I hear that the comments function is being (irreproducibly by me, unfortunately) tempermental – do let me know what the error message is if your comment doesn’t work.

3) New links added to the interesting-but-completely-bats Melanie Phillips and the excellent transatlantic Iain and Kris Murray double-act (not sure how I missed them originally). I’m aware this is quite a right-leaning set of additions; let me know if you spot any interesting new lefties…

4) Whatever’s happened to Oliver Kamm? He’s not posted for nearly a week, he’s removed the comments function from his site; nor has he replied to my (polite and fact-correcting, rather than crazy ranting) email. Hopefully he’s just on holiday.

5) England, England, England, England, etc. We rule at the world’s best sport, which is an excellent thing… and I’m not going to make any bitchy or tasteless comments about soccer and the people who play it, tempting though it is.

Update: not only is Backword an interesting newish leftist site, it also links here. Duly blogrolled.

Update 2: Oliver Kamm has returned to the world. Apparent the comments thing is temporarial.

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Despatches from the world of banking

My City friend has just sent the following email – I reproduce it unedited:

I was looking through the records for a middle eastern investment organisation this morning. Investors listed included Osama Bin Laden and Mr. George Walker Bush. George never has been one to let a good business opportunity go to waste over a few moral hazards…

About as conclusive as the evidence for Osama/Saddam links, I’d argue (that’s ‘not at all conclusive’, before anyone accuses me of suggesting Mr Bush is in fact a terror conspiracist).

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Preaching the obvious to the converted

Deepest commiserations to everyone – Turkish, British or other, Jewish, Muslim, Christian or atheist – who’s lost a relative or friend, or been injured, in this week’s Istanbul bombings. And utter scorn and contempt for the vile bastards who carried them out – I hope they’re suitably disappointed with the heavenly raisins they sacrificed their lives to obtain.

This is the kind of act that make you realise how bloody stupid the partisan rhetoric that most of us indulge in from time to time really is – especially given the juxtaposition with today’s anti-Bush demonstrations.

To the anti-war types – you’re absolutely, irredeemably demented if you think that Mr Blair and Mr Bush’s actions are morally equivalent, or even comparable, to what happened in Turkey today and on Saturday.

To the pro-war types – you’re absolutely, irreedemably demented if you think that the anti-war activists’ actions are morally equivalent, or even comparable, to what happened in Turkey today and on Saturday.

Supporting the war doesn’t make you a murderer. Opposing it doesn’t mean you support murderers. It’s sad that there are people on both sides who genuinely believe this about their opponents.

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Being sucked in again

Crazy trolls, of whatever political hue, are hardly rarities in bloglife.

It’s much stranger when you encounter commentators who are fairly reasonable and civilised in everyday blogworld, who suddently decide to act like bridge-dwellers for the purposes of one particular thread.

I’ve followed Euroblog A Fistful of Euros (or “euro”, as some more pedantic commentators would have it) since its creation.

This made me particularly surprised to be described as a worthless troll who should go back to Indymedia when I suggested that there was a propensity among the more tinfoil-flavoured variety of libertarian towards steering any media-related thread into anti-BBC venom.

At first, I assumed the commenter was merely lacking in the sense of humour department, and followed up my initial jokey post with a serious and reasoned one. The commenter’s response was textbook rightwing troll.

The odd thing is that said commenter has a reasoned and sane, if a tad economically Austrian, blog of his own. So I’m at a loss as to why, when I ask him why he agrees with Conrad Black’s view that the BBC is the worse menace to British society, he replies with “begone, foolish troll”, or words to that effect.

Should anyone wish to enlighten me, I’d be delighted to be told.

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Liberty and the pursuit of happiness

Commentators of various political hues have been fawning over Mr Bush’s London speech yesterday.

It’s not hard to see why: Mr Bush criticised terrorism, anti-Semitism and AIDS, and praised freedom and democracy. Not even Indymedia (well, maybe Indymedia) could sensibly object to these goals. I didn’t spot any praising reference to apple pie and the smiles on babies’ faces, but possibly they were just edited out of the web version.

All well and good. I’ll judge Mr Bush by his actions – if they mostly include carpet-bombing Iraqi civilians and sending people who haven’t been convicted of any crime abroad for torture, and barring foreign politicians from visiting the US on political grounds, I’ll assume he’s as bad as everyone else. If they mostly include large donations for AIDS relief and pressure on Israel to return to 1947 borders, then I’ll assume he actually meant what he was saying.

Meanwhile, the winner of the popular vote has given a rather less fluffy and platitudinous speech. He points out that while the president fights for democracy and liberty abroad, basic rights are being tossed aside at home. I envy Americans their guarantees of free spech and freedom from general government busybodyery. It’s sad to see these being eroded, and even sadder that only people such as Mr Gore, whose political future is relatively marginal, are willing to stand up for them (mainstream politicians of both parties are too scared of the ‘soft on terror’ criticism).

Overall, so far it looks like the people knew better than the Electors. But let’s see what happens in Iraq, Palestine and Washington before making final judgements…

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Fighting Islamic terror – who knows best?

One of the leading nuclear powers has a great deal of experience in fighting Islamic terrorists and occupying Arab lands. Indeed, as a young man, the country’s leader served as a soldier fighting a bloody military campaign against terrorists in an occupied Muslim land.

Does the paragraph above describe Israel? Well, yes. But (and I’d forgotten this) it also describes France. This National Journal article points out that France’s 1960s occupation of (and withdrawal from) Algeria is the closest analogy we’ve got with the US occupation of Iraq. And the lessons it taught the French might well explain France’s attitude to the Iraq war.

I’m not convinced the two are entirely comparable – after all, France occupied Algeria with the aim of making it French, whereas the US merely intends to make Iraq an Iraqi democracy. However, it’s certainly a more convincing explanation for the French stance on Iraq than “they’re evil crooks who like selling arms to bad people”.

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