When’s the Tory split due?

Several important Liberal Democrats have published a book of excellent policies. Unlike some of their fellow party members, they’re in favour of sensibile things such as free markets, tackling EU corruption and UN paralysis, and reforming pensions and healthcare.

Its editor, David Laws, makes the point that the Lib Dems have long fought against “a succession of illiberal home secretaries”, but not enough “against the nanny state” – and that this needs to change. Anti-hanging-’n'-flogging; anti-banning-’bad’-things: now there’s an agenda I can get behind.

There are slight problems: one is that they believe high crime levels are even worse than illiberal home secretaries. This is certainly true with regard to Mogadishu, but since crime is not high in the UK, it’s not very relevant here; the implication is that they erroneously believe that it is. Oh well, at least they understand there’s a balance between the two.

The more significant problem is that much of the party is too sandal-wearing and pro-nanny to accept this platform. According to party environment spokesman Lord Greaves, Mr Laws and his co-authors are “pseudo-Blairites with little following in the wider party”. If the party were to win power by some excellent miracle, then the resulting rows would dwarf anything seen within Labour.

Is there another way? The Conservatives are drifting from irrelevance and failure toward more irrelevance and failure. UKIP are taking away the ‘retired colonel who doesn’t like frogs or wogs’ vote, while the Lib Dems and Labour continue to share votes from moderate ex-Tories. There’s a great deal of pressure to drag the party to the left, and also a great deal of pressure to drag the party to the right.

I don’t see the market-liberals/socially-fairly-liberals like Oliver Letwin (or most of the Conservative Future types I know) putting up with a move towards Fortress Britain, “kick out the darkies and bring back the birch” policies. But we’ve already established that the constituency party goes bats if the leadership tries to do anything liberal – so the only viable options are the status quo or a split.

This would also allow the likes of Mr Laws, Vincent Cable and Mark Oaten to abandon the illiberal nannying zealots; together with the sane Tories, they could create the most sensible political platform since 1945. Perhaps they could call it the Liberal Party.

And yes, I know they’d lose, caught between ‘you’d leave the pensioners to starve’ demagoguery from the left and ‘you’d fill the country with Muslims and they’d blow us all up before cutting our hands off’ demagoguery from the right. But at least I’d have someone to vote for without feeling dirty…

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Survival of the unfittest

The perception that stupid people have more children than sensible people is not new. However, a new study from the US provides evidence in its favour: Republican states have a far higher fecundity rate than Democratic ones.

If anyone seriously wants to challenge the assertion that typical Republican supporters are stupider than typical Democrat supporters, bring it on.

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Really, really bad

The Republican convention seems to be made up of coalition-building, lying about John Kerry, and as little policy talk as possible. But it’s worth remembering what the party today is really about.

At a closed, invitation-only Bush campaign rally for Christian conservatives yesterday, Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas called for a broad social conservative agenda notably different from the televised presentations at the Republican convention, including adopting requirements that pregnant women considering abortions be offered anesthetics for their fetuses and loosening requirements on the separation of church and state… We must win this culture war,” Senator Brownback urged a crowd of several hundred in a packed ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel. (NYT via the Poor Man)

If you’re a moderate or liberal who’s considering voting for George W Bush on War on Terror grounds, please, please remember that this is what the modern Republican party is like. If he wins a second term, Mr Bush will get to pick at least one, possibly more, Supreme Court justices. The party will then be able to get going properly on ‘culture wars’… and the theocracy is scheduled to begin in 2030, or thereabouts.

Now, I believe the ‘War on Terror’ is somewhat overblown; that the crazed maniacs who want everyone to die are fewer in number than the current adminstration wants us to believe, and are best dealt with by using intelligence effectively and enforcing the law – not by invading half the world and suspending civil liberties.

But that doesn’t matter. Even if you believe wholeheartedly that we are in a serious war between the West and Islamic theocracy that we could conceivably lose, and (for whatever strange reason) believe that George W Bush is persuing it successfully, are you willing to stand up to the deranged theocrats by, err, surrendering to another bunch of deranged theocrats?

Andrew Sullivan is a man who definitely fits the latter category. He’s now starting to realise that nothing is worth electing these people for another four years. If you’re in this camp, the election is in *your* hands.

I don’t live in the USA, and certainly won’t get a vote this year. And if the Republicans win in November, their scary domestic crew will only impact marginally on my life. But I do admire what the USA has long stood for (much as joking otherwise is fun, and much as it sometimes fails to live up to its ideas) – democracy, tolerance, and classical liberalism.

The Republican party, like Al Qaeda, are opposed to all of these things. Unlike Al Qaeda, the American people have the power to get rid of them within three months of now.

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More please

We’re very impressed by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a the true heir to the liberal tradition. Unlike wussy mainstreamers, she’s happy to take on the Muslim establishment head-on (note to conservatives: that’s with films and words, not guns). And all while being an MP. We like the Dutch.

We’re not so impressed by the Telegraph article, however. It implies she’s railing against Islam and immigration, rather than against the corruption and medievalism of Islam as often practiced. It also labels her as spiritual heir to Pim Fortujn (whose most important legacy is to remind everyone that you can be queer and still be a bigot).

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Question of the week

Found via complicated Google adventures, the Dumbrella message board asks “What’s the deal with those spam messages that consist of nothing more than what looks like scanned ransom notes in cyrillic text?

The best answer to this question wins a Gmail account. Points will be awarded for poor taste, but deducted for obviousness.

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War on straw #2427

It’s annoying when right-wingers use human rights as a stick to bash liberals, which is frequently. It’s particularly annoying when they use feminism…

Anyone with more memory than a goldfish knows that conservatism has been the bitterest enemy of feminism for generations. Conservatism definitionally believes in keeping things much as they are, which has generally been rubbish if you’re a girl, so this is hardly a surprise.

Nonetheless, Western conservatives’ hatred of (fellow conservative ideology) Islam has caused a miraculous change of heart. Suddenly, you *have* to hate the Muslims and disdain all their customs, otherwise you approve of ‘honour killings’ (yuck, typing ‘honour’ in that context makes me feel dirty. Is there a more accurate but still short phrase?) and female genital mutilation.

Yeah, that’s right. By ‘allowing Muslim culture’ in Britain, liberals don’t mean that mosques should be built, hospitals shouldn’t serve only pork, and people shouldn’t be sacked for wearing funny robes. We mean that parents should be allowed to murder and/or cut bits off their daughters. Of course.

Under this logic, respecting Jewish culture means you approve of killing people who argue with their parents. Respecting Christian culture means you approve of witch-burning and the torture of heretics. And respecting black culture means you approve of killing gays – oh, the conservatives have actually claimed that one.

Here’s a simple guide for anyone confused. If you want to take away reproductive freedoms, discourage women in the workplace, and avoid tackling continuing gender biases in most walks of life, you’re probably a conservative not a feminist. No matter how much you hate the darkies.

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Why I laugh

Why do I laugh when people say things along the lines of “they would, if they could, kill every single one of us”, about groups for whom it may well be true? Surely this isn’t a sensible reaction to have? Actually, I think it is.

I associate that kind of rhetoric with McCarthyites and communists (and earlier in history, with more or less any establishment group and more or less any immigrant group). While the McCarthyites were literally right that there were Communist saboteurs in the West who were willing to murder in order to destroy our society, they were entirely wrong to believe that a significant proportion of Communist activists were deranged murderous saboteurs – and they ended up doing far more harm to their own country than the fifth columnists could ever have managed.

This sounds remarkably similar to the current situation with militant Islam. Some armed Muslims are proper Al Qaeda-ites who want to kill all Crusaders; infinitely more are Ingush-who-hate-the-Ossetians, Palestinians-who-hate-the-Israelis, Afghans-who-hate-any-foreigner-who-tries-to-invade-their-country, Javans-who-hate-the-Hindus, Kashmiris-who-hate-the-Indians, and a dozen other ethnic conflicts for which Islam is at most a wrapper. Indeed, the Darfur evilness highlights the fact that even sharing the Muslim faith doesn’t stop rival ethnic groups from slaughtering each other.

If our leaders showed an awareness of this, then I’d consider taking their rhetoric on the Great Threat Posed To Us All seriously. But when they come up with quotes like “My friends, there is no Palestinian-Israeli conflict. There is only the global war on terrorism” (Tom DeLay, Aug 30 2004), it seems pretty clear that they are conflating the many Muslims willing to fight in inter-tribal conflicts with the very few Muslims willing to blow up the Western world.

There are only two reasons a politican would make such claims: ignorance, or to make us excessively afraid so that we vote for the incumbents.

Worse, the conflation of Islam, Islamists, militants who are Muslim and members of Al Qaeda stirs up mistrust among the public, and drives more people to become proper terrorists (‘well, the west is clearly planning to destroy *us* if we don’t strike first’).

And that’s why I laugh. Perhaps the fact that our rulers are dangerously incompetent or liars (that’s in no way an XOR) who are willing to sacrifice our lives and Muslims’ lives for their own popularity shouldn’t make me *laugh* at their claims, but the only alternative seems to be retreating into more depression than I’d like to experience right now.

(thanks to Jimmy Doyle, who is nothing if not tenacious, for helping me draw out my thoughts)

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Close the corner shops

I’ve just heard George Monbiot on the Today programme, perhaps not surprisingly (BBC bias claimants might want to note that the other guest was ASI director Eamonn Butler), claiming that the closure of local shops was bad for consumers.

Has Mr Monbiot ever been to a corner shop? They’re uniformly rubbish, with a tiny range, enormous prices, and gone-off food. My local Tesco Express (opened on the site of a corner shop) has an excellent range, is much cheaper, and understands that you need to store yogurt in the fridge.

Indeed, the preponderance of superstores and their miniature relatives makes it easier to buy decent food in any small English suburb than in New York City. All the grocery stores in NYC are corner shops, and nearly all are also overpriced and rubbish (I’m not sure whether this is due to protectionist laws – if not, big chains would do well to set up there).

There are some arguments against the big supermarkets on the cost side – whether they use their power to avoid paying suppliers fairly, whether they exploit staff (the fact that big supermarkets tend to come near the top of the country’s best employers survey implies not, but doesn’t prove it). But anyone claiming the growth of Tesco and Wal-Mart is anything other than good for consumers is wrong.

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Time to learn foreign

It would appear that the only way to avoid being stuck with a fat bird is to stop dating Brits or Americans. Heureusement, les filles francaises sont toujours très belles.

I was going to provide some links to justify the final sentence, but keep being distracted. If anyone would like to suggest a worthy place/places to link to, let me know.

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