Friday, January 10, 2003

The joys of Dingle
Blogging will slightly lighter in the next few days. I have a nephew from the States in town, and we are off to the Dingle Peninsula. (The site is written in English and in Irish, a Gaelic language, if you want to see just how strange the language looks to a non-speaker like me.) Do you think beauty is lush landscape? Then you have not seen Dingle, an utterly barren, windswept peninsula on the southwest corner of Ireland. Ireland sometimes frustrates me, sometimes a lot, but it is one remarkably beautiful place.
Tom Lehrer
I remarked the other day about Tom Lehrer's cracks about folk music. Kieran Healy emailed to point out that Lehrer's "The Folk Song Army" has cracks along the same lines:
The tune don't have to be clever,
And it don't matter if you put a coupla extra syllables into a line.
It sounds more ethnic if it ain't good English,
And it don't even gotta rhyme--excuse me--rhyne.
I felt a deep moral obligation to double check the web site by listening to the album, That Was the Year That Was, that has the song. (Kieran was right.) The same album also has National Brotherhood Week, with the lines:
Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics,
And the Catholics hate the Protestants,
And the Hindus hate the Moslems,
And everybody hates the Jews.
The hustler's dilemma
In the Guardian, Joseph Harker moans that the Labour Party's quota system for candidates means that women quotas are messing up the racial minority quotas.
More gun crime in Britain
The Daily Telegraph makes a telling point about the rapid rise in gun crime in Britain.
Imagine that the number of crimes in which firearms were used had declined dramatically since the ownership of handguns was banned. Politicians of every party who voted for the ban, introduced by the then Home Secretary, Michael Howard, after the Dunblane massacre, would today be congratulating themselves on their wisdom. They would be saying that handgun crime had gone down as a direct consequence of their decision to ban handguns.

But handgun crime has not gone down since the ban came into force in 1997. In fact, it has gone up - and very dramatically so. Figures released yesterday, which detail increases in offences ranging from burglary to mugging and sexual attacks, showed that the number of offences in which handguns were used increased by 46 per cent last year alone. Since the ban was introduced, the annual figure has more than doubled, to 5,871. . . . Had it succeeded in reducing gun crime, those who voted for it would have been quick to take the credit. But who will be the first of them to throw up his hands and accept that it hasn't worked - and was never likely to?
The Lomborg story
I thought it might be useful to have a list of the sources of the controversy around Bjorn Lomborg's book, The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World, which was published in English in 2001.

Ronald Bailey reviewed the book in February 2002, and by May 2002 was already claiming evidence of the beginnings of a smear job by the greens.
In January 2002, Lomborg is attacked in Scientific American, in an editorial with the title "Misleading Math about the Earth: Science defends itself against The Skeptical Environmentalist". The editorial was accompanied by attacks on Lomborg by four scientists connected to the environmentalist movement: Stephen Schneider of Stanford, John Holdren of Harvard, John Bongaarts of the Population Council, and Thomas Lovejoy of the World Bank. These attacks totalled eleven pages. Lomborg was given a one page reply, which, together with Scientific American's rebuttal, can be found here. Lomborg's more detailed response to his critics is here (pdf file). Scientific American also has a rebuttal by John Holdren, one of the original critics, as well as links to variety of sites critical of Lomborg, and it published a number of letters from readers (here and here.
There was also a debate between Lomborg and two critics, David Sandelow of the World Wildlife Fund and Alan Hammond of the World Resources Institute at the American Enterprise Institute (transcript here).
Lomborg wrote a piece for the New York Times in August 2002, which, together with some commentary by Brad DeLong, can be found here.

The furor began when the Danish Research Agency condemned Lomborg for "scientific dishonesty".
The Washington Post covers the story.
The New York Times covers the story better, by actually getting a response from Lomborg.
Nick Shulz calls it a smear campaign in Tech Central Station.
The Economist pours scorn on Lomborg's critics, and the Danish Research Agency.
InstaPundit offers his take on the politics of the attack.
Finally, Lomborg responded to the Danish Research Agency's attack.

Thursday, January 09, 2003

Note to multiculturalists: drop dead
The Times reports on a 15 year British boy who was kidnapped by his Palestinian father. Held against his will in Nablus, the boy managed to sneak out of the house and make his way to the British counsulate in Jerusalem, and then on to England to be reunited with his mother.
“It was brilliant to see her again,” he said yesterday. “It’s so good to be back in Barry after living in a war zone. Maybe I didn’t appreciate it so much before, but I do now.”
Hope for France?
In the Telegraph, Philip Delves Broughton suggests that the collapse of French intellectuals means there is hope for France.
The prevailing culture in France is conservative. Politics is dominated by three men who straddle the 1968 generation: President Jacques Chirac, the 1950s cavalry officer and archetypal bourgeois Gaullist; the Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, who was a 19-year-old at university in Paris in 1968, but whose revolutionary spirit stopped at singing in a rock band; and the interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, 47, who sneers at the 68-ers for being limousine liberal geezers who blather about human rights with no idea of the problems of contemporary France.
Why I started AtlanticBlog
Back in early September, I started AtlanticBlog out of the frustration of being an American in Europe: living in two worlds but living in neither. In the Times, (a link I picked up via Cold Spring ShopsMichael Gove digs into the heart of too much of Europe and reminds me again why I started this blog.
Why then do the myths of America the Hateful take such powerful hold? Because anti-Americanism provides a useful emotional function which goes beyond logic and reaches deep into the darker recesses of the European soul. In centuries past those on the Left who wished to personalise their hatred of capitalism, who sought to make it emotionally resonant by fastening an envious political passion on to a blameless scapegoat people, embraced anti-Semitism. It was the socialism of fools. Which is what anti-Americanism is now.

It should not therefore be surprising that those on the populist Right who share the Left’s antipathy towards the US are those, like the Austrian Freedom Party or the French National Front, who are heirs of anti-Semitic traditions. Nor should it be remarkable that the other tie which binds these allies of new Left and old Right together, the thread linking those such as George Galloway and Jörg Haider, is their hostility to Israel.

Both America and Israel were founded by peoples who were refugees from prejudice in Europe. Europe’s tragedy is that prejudice has been given new life, in antipathy to both those states.
I do not think that Europe is rotten to the core, but its intellectual life certainly is. And there a staggering capacity of large parts of the population to, well, I will let Tony Blair say it better than me.
I would never commit British troops to a war I thought was wrong or unnecessary. But the price of influence is that we do not leave the US to face the tricky issues alone.
By tricky, I mean the ones which people wish weren't there, don't want to deal with and, if I can put it a little pejoratively, know the US should confront, but want the luxury of criticising them for it.
Sex with Germaine Greer? Ick
Germaine Greer once remarked of her ex-husband
I married a man who didn't like me. He liked shagging me, but he didn't like me.
I could understand easily why he did not like her, but in the Times, she makes me wonder why he liked having sex with her.
I am being cruel here, deliberately. Partly because she deserves it, but partly too because too many feminists have gone out of their way to make relations between the sexes so much more difficult. She dimly grasps that sex has been cheapened, but can only offer more of the same.
When boys sneer at a girl who won’t join in sex games on the back seat of the school bus, and call her frigid, it hurts; she wonders whether her revulsion means that something might be wrong with her. A woman who begins to dislike the sex on offer within an adult relationship, which may well be lukewarm and mechanical, and is told that the problem is hers and that it is called FSD, is being manipulated in the same way. The difference is that this pseudo-medical concern is presented to her as pro-feminist, caring, empowering, and all that jazz. Co-option of feminist rhetoric has been a problem ever since a cigarette was sold to women who had “come a long way baby”. The sanctimonious claptrap that will be used to sell Viagra to women will argue that sexual satisfaction is a human right that Pfizer is nobly concerned to restore to women, as it has to the men who are already providing the company with a billion dollars of profit every year.

As women’s orgastic potency is adversely affected by insecurity, knowledge that the man in one’s life has to take Viagra to get it up will hardly enhance female sexual response. A loving husband might also be abashed to discover that his wife is yelping beneath him not because his penis is a joy to her but because she took a pill or is using an electronic implant. How different is taking Viagra from popping amyl nitrate or snorting cocaine to enhance sexual response? The only difference between Viagra and Suregasm or Nymphomax or Zestra is that Viagra works, but the evidence is scantier and softer than it has any right to be, given Pfizer’s massive resources.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Why I do not read much modern poetry
In today's Guardian, Tom Paulin has a poem titled "On being dealt the anti-Semitic card". A taste:
but all this guilt

- guilt that stings

is now fitted to a programme

- Christian fundamentalist

born again into that Zion

we all are touched by

- are spitted on
I am reminded of a comment Tom Lehrer made at a concert before starting his folk song parody, The Irish Ballad.
This song though does differ strikingly from the genuine folk ballad in that in this song the words which are supposed to rhyme - actually do. (starts to play, then stops) I, ah, I really should say that - I do not direct these remarks against the vast army of folk song lovers, but merely against that peculiar hard core who seem to equate authenticity with artistic merit and illiteracy with charm.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

More fathers
James Q. Wilson argues that the absence of fathers matters hugely to crime.
An employed father helps persuade a young boy that getting a job makes more sense than hanging out on a street corner, even if the job they get does not pay much. When there is no father, the boy is likely to think that his goal is to do what other boys do--become a stud, join a gang, steal money and sell drugs.

And fathers help protect their families. They are the first line of defense, guarding their wives and children from unsavory lures and dangerous predators. The police, by contrast, are what an old friend of mine once called linebackers: They can at best fill in when the fathers' defensive line gets a hole punched in it. Without active and committed fathers, boys are alone in a risky world, making gangs look attractive. Their buddies provide what fathers cannot--self-defense.
I suspect that fathers are important not only for teaching boys how to behave like men, they are important for teaching girls how men should behave, and what sorts of behavior they should expect from men.
Speaking of the Spectator, as I was last post, Theordore Dalrymple asks whether it could happen here. His answer is yes, and attributes much of the problem to the absence of fathers.
A conservative Irish magazine?
Daniel Drezner notes criticism of his post on sensitivity to criticism by the left and right from Kieran Healy. I am baffled by one bit of this debate, from Kieran Healy.
Until recently, high-schools were thought to be centers of unhappiness for people who should be popular but are not, because they can't throw a football and have a subscription to The National Review. This was certainly the case when I was in school.
Now, Kieran obviously does not mean this literally. Kieran went to school in Ireland, where a football is not thrown (although there is Gaelic football, which, like most sports, I do not understand), and National Review does not sit on the news stands. Now this is fair enough, because it is a fair guess that the bulk of his readers are in the US, so a translation is reasonable.

My puzzle is this. Kieran's hypothetical conservative high school student in Ireland isn't reading National Review, so what does Kieran think he is reading? The Phoenix? Not likely. Do they go over the water and read The Spectator? Sort of conservative, but not in the way Americans would understand the term. Spill the beans, Kieran.

Monday, January 06, 2003

Human rights as farce
The Daily Telegraph (registration required) reports that hundreds of schools in Scotland are not using detention as punishment because it may be a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The move, which has been condemned by teachers' leaders and politicians, comes after a 15-year-old pupil began legal action against Moray council on the grounds that the detention she received while a pupil at Speyside High School, Aberlour, violated the European Convention of Human Rights.

Freya Macdonald has based her action on Article 5 of the ECHR, which has been incorporated into Scots law, and says it is illegal to detain children in school against their will without first securing a court order.

Her lawyers are also citing Article 2, which states that every child has the right to an education, and Article 3 which protects children from degrading treatment. The teenager claims that repeated detentions disrupted her education. She eventually refused to go to school until her teachers and headmaster agreed in writing to respect her civil rights.

"If teachers treated pupils with more respect, they would show them more consideration in return," she said. "My friends still get detention, even though it is against the European Convention."
The convention, in all its glory, can be found here.
Good but annoying news
According to the Irish Independent (registration required), a group of women have set up camp outside the entrance to Shannon Airport, Ireland's only international airport outside Dublin. They are protesting the Irish government's decision to allow US military planes to use the airport. The good news is that Ireland is having sub-freezing temperatures, and a low of 27F is expected tonight. Maybe their pure hearts will keep them warm.

Sunday, January 05, 2003

More murder, paid for by the EU
The Washington Post reports that at least 15 were murdered in Tel Aviv by two suicide bombers. Islamic Jihad claims responsibility. Meanwhile, some French academics are busily hoping that if everyone thinks Jews are terrible, they will not notice French complicity in the murder of millions of Jews.
Hooray for Mary Robinson
The Irish Independent (a very different paper from the Independent in the UK) reports on comment made by Mary Robinson (registration is required) in an interview with the British journalist Jonathan Dimbleby.
Mary Robinson said: "A country like Ireland in the European Union is very much in favour of all aspects of the Common Agricultural Policy, and regards it as a national policy to hold on to it."

Jonathan Dimbleby interjected: "Which actually creates hunger in developing countries." Ms Robinson continued: "Which actually creates lack of access to markets of developing countries, therefore unemployment, therefore poverty. And we are not making enough of a connection. So there is a lot of rigorous homework to be done."
Her link is wrong. Lack of access to markets lowers the prices farmers in poor countries get, which makes them poorer. Unemployment is not a part of the issue. But she is right to emphasize the role of Common Agricultural Policy in enriching European farmers at the expense of farmers in poor countries, as well as European consumers. It would not hurt if she mentioned the role of governments in poor countries, who also push down prices farmers get, but she has made a step in the right direction.
Federalism alert
I remarked yesterday about a Washington Post discussing a Brookings study about Project Exile in Richmond, Virginia, which concluded it was ineffective. I read through the study this morning, and I found it reasonably persuasive. One point that puzzled me at the time, though, and still does, although less so. The Post story quoted a spokesman for the NRA praising Project Exile, but a quick Google search discovered opposition to it from groups such as Gun Owners of America, Gun Owners' Alliance, and Keep and Bear Arms. Project Exile involved shifting gun offenders out of state courts and into federal courts where the penalties for gun possession are more severe, so it is an anti-federalism project as well. That may explain why there are differences of opinion among anti-gun control groups, although not why the NRA seems to stand out.