This appears to be very bad news for the British political blogosphere. Mr Eugenides has the details. Much though I rarely agreed with a word written there, this is a voice that should not be silenced.
Longrider's analysis is excellent. Take a look. If paedophiles truly operated under the compulsion of a mental illness, they would not be criminals at all. They would deserve compassion. Legally they would be innocent and should never be imprisoned in the first place. If, on the other hand, they are sane and capable of making free choices, then when they break the law they are criminals like any other. Their statistical tendency to recidivism (little different, I suspect, to that of other criminal groups) does not mean a given individual should be denied the chance to reform when he has served his time. Arguing that Paul Gadd should be allowed to live in freedom unless and until he commits another crime, is not to condone what he did. No-one who has argued against the new powers the Government has introduced - and which the odious Jacqui Smith is now brandishing to the applause of the mob, is supporting paedophiles or advocating paedophilia. House of Dumb, in condemning "the lefty blogosphere" (I have not been called "a lefty" since my days as a teenage Maoist) writes;
If you're going to insist that paedophiles have the same rights as everyone else, then you're arguing that everyone should be treated as though they were a paedophile. Once you claim there's no meaningful distinction to be drawn between the average citizen and degenerate filth, then you're faced with either letting maniacs run free or clamping down on the rights of the non-depraved.
Take the word "paedophile" and replace it with "murderer", "racist", "homophobe" or (in an earlier age) "homosexual" and the passage works just as well as demagoguery. Everyone should have the same legal rights as everyone else unless and until convicted by due process of law. Those rights should then only be removed (or rather suspended) until the expiry of the sentence passed by an indpendent court in accordance with the law. It is not libertarianism which is leading to "clamping down on the rights of the non-depraved," it is such addled, tabloid emotionalism as this.
The witch-hunters cannot have it both ways. However much they may describe any attempt at rational thought as "...near-lunatic ranting..." If they are allowed to get away with their afternoon-TV, chav sentimentalism, what next? After all those with criminal convictions for violence are a statistical threat to children when released. Why should such individuals be allowed their liberty when their sentence is served? Or what about someone who has killed a child by dangerous driving? Might he not do so again? When every threat to the children has been removed, what about other young people? What about the elderly? What about other vulnerable members of society? What about everyone?
What is it about sex that robs the British of their senses? Yes, paedophile sex is a vile assault. It is a repulsive attack upon innocence. So are many other kinds of assault on the weak and defenceless. These people seriously speak of the "weirdness" of the libertarian position. Yet they are quite prepared to set free, perhaps to re-offend, someone who has killed, maimed or raped. Whose position is "weird" again?
I could understand if those who seek to bind Paul Gadd with legal restrictions for the rest of his life were to argue that paedophilia should carry a life sentence. For that matter, I could understand if they argued it should carry a death sentence. At least that would be honest. At least there could be a sensible debate about comparative sentencing for different crimes. But the hybrid position they are defending now is quite simply stupid.
This man should be fired. Immediately. And then he should be barred from any public employment of any kind in this country. How dare he speak to a free man in the way that he did? Are there any policemen reading this who are prepared to justify his conduct? I would be fascinated to hear their point of view. Sadly, his attitude is all too typical of public servants in Britain today.
h/t Old Holborn
I said I felt obliged to write about the current paedophilia witch-hunt. I am positively quivering with rage at the way in which our detestable Home Secretary is playing on the prejudices of the unwashed and ignorant in the case of Paul Gadd, aka Gary Glitter.
No-one approves of paedophilia, but the way in which emotion has been allowed to override the principles of justice is more dangerous by far than the nastiest paedophile alive. In the past 48 hours, I have been horrified by some of the stuff I have read on blogs on this subject, including serving police officers expressing - apparently in all seriousness - the view that only bullets in a paedophile's head will keep our children safe.
Every time I say it, I attract readers' wrath, but here I go again. A paedophile can no more choose his sexual urges than can any other deviant from the sexual norm. He is worthy of compassion for precisely as long as he restrains himself from putting those urges into practice. As his objects of desire can never consent, his sexuality can never find consensual expression and so he is condemned to chastity. It is insane, given the pressures under which that puts him, that our society has proscribed even digital aids to the masturbatory fantasies which any rational person would wish him to find as satisfying as possible.
But say I am wrong. Say he has a choice. In that case, he is a criminal like any other. These and many other points, I was planning to make at length, but DK has already done it and done it well. I endorse every word of his post, and would only add this. The present witch-hunt is a disgrace to a once-civilised nation. I hope Paul Gadd can restrain his horrible urges in future. I also hope he can find a country which will either treat him for his mental illness (if that is what it is) or leave him free to try to avoid re-offending.
Jacqui Smith is either an ignoramus or pretends to be one in order to win the votes of those who are. Either way, she is a traitor to every civilised value this country ever stood for and unfit to be Home Secretary. I despise her political exploitation of this pathetic man with every fibre of my being.
I have said it before and will say it again, TED is one of the best sites on the internet. I turn to it for relief from the pessimism of the political world. While politicians continue to find ways to mess up even the simplest things, some scientists not embroiled in political agendas are excitedly making the world a better place.
This talk by Neil Gershenfeld of MIT is one I will have to watch several times. He spews ideas out at high speed and in technical language, but his notion that "computer science" is one of the worst things to have happened either to computers or to science is an interesting one. It's fascinating to see how the "Fab Labs" he set up around the world liberated the creativity of people who have no interest in making pixels dance on a screen but were excited by making things in the real world. Man is a tool using thing maker. It makes perfect sense that the computer should become the modern equivalent of the flint axe. It's certainly an exciting notion that, while mechanisation brought us industrial mass production, computerisation can turn us back into craftsmen making unique things for our own family's specific needs (but of industrial quality). Given such abilities, what would you make?
Anyway, do please watch the film. It's intriguing to say the least. I promise you will enjoy it more than the post about the government's pandering to mass hysteria over paedophilia, which I feel duty bound to write next, despite all the opprobrium it will attract.
Just when the full extent of Francis Fukuyama's idiocy is finally becoming apparent, the UK government's financial incompetence is compromising the defence of the realm. Right now, the government should be cutting every public sector job involving tasks too vague for concrete tests of successful performance to be applied. Instead it is trying to offload orders for fighter planes, which it cannot now afford, despite having had more than 10 years (the planes having been delivered very late indeed) to save up. The real story here is not the loss of the planes (with which the forces seem unenamoured) but the admission that our government is so financially incompetent as not to make provision for its obligations. Was it hoping to win the lottery perhaps?
I am tired of hysterical risk assessments. Almost every problem today is touted as a "greater threat than global warming" (probably true, but that's not how it's meant). However, I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that our nation's independence has rarely been more vulnerable than it is now. I do not fear the much-exaggerated terrorist threat. The hapless primitives of Muslim extremism have never been as dangerous as the Soviet-trained and American-funded hard men of the IRA, despite having a few losers prepared to sacrifice their own lives in an attempt to kill. There will not be as many of those as we fear. The human will to live is remarkably strong. Nor will the threat last as long. We may struggle to digest Muslim men into our culture but we will absorb the women, for whom traditional ways are not quite as attractive. All we have to do to begin that process is cut off the supply of village girls for arranged marriages. British-educated Muslim women will take care of the rest.
The real risks we face now are both internal and external. Internally, we face the loss of our freedoms under cover of "The War Against Terror." That is in our own hands. We must make it clear to our politicians at every opportunity, both by democratic process and civil disobedience, that we will not submit. We must make it clear that this kind of PC nonsense is not the way to "protect" us against terrorists. Only good intelligence work can do that - and then imperfectly.
The external threat is less dramatic, but no less serious. We face Finlandisation by the sub-optimally democratic powers of the world that Nature has blessed with oil and gas. Eco-fantasies aside, our civilisation depends as profoundly on those fuels as on the air we breathe. We have been buffered by North Sea supplies for a while, but that is almost over. Even if it were not, I doubt the soon-t0-be-independent Scots would be gentler fuel overlords than the Saudis or their competitors. Without that buffer, we can already see Germany chumming up to the suppliers on which its industry depends. Thanks to the "Atomkraft? Nein Danke!" idiots of the 1980's, it has no choice. We are in no place to sneer. We have already compromised our own ethics for Saudi Arabia, so let's not pretend we will not do the same for other suppliers, whoever they are and whatever their demands
Our two key spending priorities right now should therefore be energy independence (building nuclear power stations - and fast) and defence. We should be building, not scaling down, our home defences and we should prioritise them over foreign adventures. We need to secure as many sources of energy supply as possible until our nukes come online, in order to play one supplier off against the other. And we need a navy and air force able to defend our supply routes.
While New Labour has tinkered relentlessly (and at huge economic and social cost) with every trivial aspect of our lives, it has failed in the primary role of government. It has not secured our independence as a nation.
The Guardian's Q&A about the Olympics today is psychologically revealing. Individual Leftists may be sport fans, but collectively it's a political problem for them. If you believe in equality, the "second is nowhere" attitude required to excel is likely to upset you, as is the whole concept of "winners and losers." Hence all the confused youngsters in our primary schools who are told on school sports day that "everybody won," when the difference between the focussed individual who came first and the clumsy loser who came last is apparent to everyone except the teacher wearing her patented Guardian thought goggles.
I only turned to the article because I have seen the word "yngling" and wanted to know what it meant, but I read the whole thing with amused pleasure as Guardianism after comical Guardianism emerged.
If I were a different kind of blogger, I would snort "typical" upon remarking that the very first paragraph emotes breathily about the contents of sportsmen's trousers. Though as many gay men in Britain seem to be Conservative as Socialist, the Left believes it owns homosexuality as an "ishoo". I can't imagine why. Libertarians never believed the state should care what people did in bed and the history of the statist Right and Left is equally embarrassing. Growing up in a Labour area where any sign of interest in literature or the arts had you immediately badged as a "poof", I am not daft enough to believe the Islingtonian gay consensus reflects Labour attitudes. I suspect Tories, on average, are more tolerant. For now, however, let's assume this part of the article was written by an over-excited Ms Cochrane and pass on
Black people are another group the Left thinks they "own" Our sporting commissars therefore helpfully explain why people from the Caribbean run fast. Just as America's tennis schools have driven the rising standards of Russian players, so American sports scholarships have helped Caribbean athletes shine. This is of course unacceptable to Guardian Man. The world's most capitalist nation should only ever stand out for its social inequalities. The Left's preferred mental image of the USA is not of well-funded, independent universities providing scholarships to poor foreigners, but of a sick, poor person being turned away from an hospital for lack of a gold credit card. Amusingly, when the Caribbean locals are asked for their own explanations, they are little better than the truth. "Discipline" and "Religion" are no more favoured by The Guardian than capitalism. Noting quickly therefore that "standards of coaching and facilities [are] growing rapidly" in the Caribbean, the sporting journos move gamely on, ending the passage on the noble note sounded by one of the Jamaican coaches; "We're small and we're poor, but we believe in ourselves." This is perfectly on-message. Guardian readers love to hear of their favoured minorities believing in themseves, as long as the rest of us keep up the self-loathing.
The next passage however is even richer in Marxism-Leninism Guardian thought;
"...annoyingly, some dictionaries do accept "medal" as a verb, meaning "to decorate or honour with a medal" or "to receive a medal, esp. in a sporting event". It is, however, clearly an ugly Americanism - the earliest identified use of the word meaning to win a medal dates from 1966, in California, and the Washington Post was using it by 1979 - which needs to be stamped out. The sooner medal-obsessed Americans stop meddling with the English language the better."
When you think of the sort of buffer who gets excited about new usages (while at the same time writing sentences that leave it unclear whether American usages, 1979 or the Washington Post should be "stamped out") you probably don't imagine Leftists. But a control freak is a control freak, whatever the subject matter. And Leftists are nothing if not that. Who else but a Leftist could feel the need to "stamp out" a new verb? For myself, I delight that English is a vibrant living language that generates more new words every year than many languages have. It's a rich river with many tributaries and is wonderful to swim in because of the fresh water they bring (not to mention the rapids, torrents and waterfalls to be found at the confluences). Nor is control freakery the only Leftist hallmark in this short section. There's also anti-Americanism (does The Guardian's style guide actually mandate the word "ugly" before every use of "americanism"). When every nation wants to win medals (and Socialist nations have such an ugly history of lying, cheating and jeopardising their athletes' health to do so) why is it only the Americans that are "medal hungry?" I think we should be told.
You hardly need me to comment on the section about heroic losers, with its inevitable mention of Eddie the Eagle. I was stunned at the clear statement here of the true Socialist ethos:
Failure is always more interesting - and more entertaining - than success.
Labour loves losers, because only a loser would want the state to dictate to him how to live his pathetic life. As witness our comrades' distaste for the reaction of Katherine Grainger, the senior member of Team GB's women's quadruple scull, who burst into tears after she won silver (or as she saw it, lost the race). Given its role as the Pravda of the Labour Party, there's something endearing about the tone of The Guardian's exhortations to Ms Grainger and other shockingly "medal hungry" Brits; what they should have been thinking, apparently, was "Well done, jolly good show, marvellous effort." Quite so, Jeeves.
Usain Bolt's revelation that he beat the 100 metres world record on a diet of chicken nuggets is simply too much for The Guardian. Surely not the processed devil food of the Great Satan?! So it wheels in the "professor of sport and exercise nutrition at the University of Loughborough" to sneer. Can chicken nuggets help you run faster? Our provincial sage (who clearly knows much more than the world's fastest man) has the answer. "I suppose it depends what you do with them," he says. "Assuming you eat them, it's highly unlikely that they'll help." Anti-americanism, condescension to the masses, contempt for multi-national corporations and the globalisation of our diet, finger-wagging nannyism, professor-worship and favouring obscure state universities - all in one short paragraph. Marvellous, when you think about it.
Which brings me to how The Guardian deals with Team GB's unexpected success in Beijing. There is a serious danger that it might lead to the twin evils of national pride and self-respect and that - of course - would never do. So the comrades deconstruct it, throwing in dollops of class-hatred, anti-monarchism and so forth. Mentioning a rather good Australian joke (that the Brits are so lazy they only win the sports they can sit down to play) our heroes proceed to take it seriously. "Unfortunately, they're right" they say, stereotyping us all by reference to "...our innate laziness - the weather in the UK is bad and we spend most of our time indoors watching TV or playing online Scrabble..." Wonderfully they go on;
In three-day eventing, at which we are traditionally strong (and where we usually manage to find a member of the royal family able to compete), there are just 75 competitors. In athletics there are 2,000. To succeed in eventing you would need a fantastic horse, probably worth £250,000 or more, and the means to transport it to Beijing; in athletics you need a strong pair of lungs. Ethiopia, Morocco and Kenya are very good at athletics, but they are absolute crap at three-day eventing.
So there you have it. We only win because of our imperial legacy of wealth in the clammy fists of lardy aristos who just happen to have the resources to compete in fields where there are no honest black folk to hammer them. Don't you just loathe yourself now? Don't you just wish you were an honest Ethiopian with a good pair of lungs? Excellent. That's just what The Guardian wants. How this logic applies to our cyclists and swimmers is another matter. No expensive facilities are needed to ride a bike, rowing boats are not really that dear and Britain is full of rivers, but but that doesn't stop our heroes giving this intrepid advice
Go for technologically complicated and expensive sports that hardly anyone can afford, such as yachting. Or, better still, sports that are both mind-blowingly dull and need expensive facilities, such as cycling and rowing. Britain should press for formula one motor racing to be included in 2012. Then let's see Jamaica find someone to rival Lewis Hamilton and his McLaren.
Makes you proud, doesn't it? On the other hand, while those sturdy-lunged Kenyans are good honest athletes who win by endeavour, the greatest Olympian ever (having made the fatal error of being American) is "weird." In the logic of Guardian-land, that figures. His success has nothing to do with his remarkable physique, which in turn has nothing to do with the fact that in his nasty, medal-hungry American way;
He swims more than 100km a week, and trains every day of the week, every day of the year, including Christmas Day.
No. In Guardian World, that is obsessive, weird and - let's face it - wrong. I am happy to say that the younger Ms Paine was in the crowd in Beijing to see Mr Phelps pass into history. I wish I could have been there too. Swimming was the only sport I ever enjoyed and he was amazing to watch. Well done that man! Please pay these envious losers no mind. The world is full of them and taken altogether they are not worth the considerable weight of your powerful will to win.
This post is already too long. And it could easily be three times longer. Please read the whole article and laugh. I will leave you with the most predictable Q&A in journalistic history. What would you expect The Guardian's answer to be to the question "Doesn't it make you proud to be British?"
"No, in a nutshell".
No surprise there. Let's just hope we don't live to see what it would take them to make them be proud.
Mock the Week is maturing into an excellent satire show. If satire is returning, a Conservative government must be imminent. During Conservative governments we get such wonders as Spitting Image and Not the Nine o'clock News. During Labour - as the luvvies refuse to attack "their boys" - we get The Goodies and Little Britain - inane, moronic slapstick with zero political content.
My favourite recent moment was the good value Frankie Boyle's comment on Gordon Brown's appointment of a personal trainer. In his view the truth of the story was that a woman was leading the Prime Minister off into the woods, not for exercise, but so that he could "sit down on a tree stump and cry."
This made me think. What exactly is wrong with Gordon Brown? While Sarkozy, Bush and even David Cameron have been speaking out - and in Sarkozy's case, taking action - on the crisis in Georgia, Brown has been strangely silent. Our economy is visibly on the slide, with the ex-Chancellor's "stealth tax and spend" policies being blamed. Yet he has nothing to say in his own defence. While other world leaders chatted amiably with each other at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics, the allegedly sport-loving Mr Brown preferred seclusion. Was he by any chance in his bed with the sheets pulled over his head?
Our Prime Minister is famously prone to mobile-phone-smashing tantrums and his entourage are said to tiptoe around him for fear of incurring his wrath. Does this sound like a man in command of himself, let alone the political situation?
The theory could also explain why the Labour Party seems unable to deal with him. Perhaps their reluctance to give the quietus to his near-dead career is explained by fear of the political damage involved in revealing his mental state? Perhaps they feel it's better discreetly to control the situation medically, rather than admit what they have inflicted on us?
Before our Labour-supporting friends explode, let me admit readily that this is the merest speculation and that I have no concrete evidence. I am asking a question, not making an accusation. Indeed, as a long-time supporter of mental health charities, this would be one of the few things that could actually make me feel compassion for the odious Fifer. Since first the thought occurred to me however, I cannot help notice how it explains the PM's behaviour far better than any political logic.
We have just returned safely home from the South of France. Vittoria sang her way across one and two-thirds countries without mishap. The work of Auto Palace in Cannes (merci, messieurs) was as professional and thorough as it seemed at the time. All her computerised systems functioned flawlessly.
Our only problem on the two day journey was a slight run-in yesterday with the gendarmerie near Troyes. Even that reflected well on France. The officers, one male and one female, were well-dressed and polite. They did not lecture me in that infuriating parental way that British policemen have, but simply pointed out the (alleged) facts, namely that the speed limit on a French autoroute is 130 kph and that their equipment suggested I had been travelling at 147kph. I listened politely and decided it would be pas gentil to doubt the word of such courteous people in their own country.
Had I had €90 in cash, that would have been the end of the matter, but as we were on our way home and thought credit cards would cover all remaining expenses we were put to the slight inconvenience of following them - Vittoria technically under arrest - to the nearest ATM machine. This provided some harmless amusement to the local populace as a GB-badged Maserati followed slowly in the wake of an humble police Renault with its blue light flashing.
I annoyed Mrs Paine by pointing out to the male policeman when we stopped at the ATM that he was committing an offence himself as his right brake light was not working. She thought me "cheeky." Perhaps it is as well that I couldn't recall the French word for "fine" (amende) as I had in mind to suggest he pay one. As it was, he thanked me for telling him and said it was tres gentil on my part. Fortunately, sarcasm doesn't flow well across language barriers. I thanked the officers (what for, exactly?) and wished them a happy holiday (15th August is a public holiday there) before setting off cheerfully. €90, 30 minutes' hassle and no points was quite a bargain by British standards. As I said to Mrs P. as we drove off, I only wish I had asked the tariff for doing 177mph as I could then have tested Vittoria's limits on public roads, if the price was reasonable.
We overnighted near Épernay and set off this morning after our last wonderful French breakfast for a while. Yesterday's weather had been difficult at times. We drove through the heaviest rain I have ever encountered, with visibility reduced to a few metres. The response of the drivers was superb. People adjusted to the conditions very sensibly, reducing their speeds and allowing much more distance between them. Even so, for the first time in 35 years' driving, I considered abandoning a journey. Today however the weather conditions in Northern France were perfect and we had a very pleasant drive to the Eurotunnel. The members of the French government may be just as power-crazed statists as our own, but they seem to run a much tighter ship. This was the peak holiday season in the world's most-visited country and the roads were high-quality and clear from bottom to top.
But then we reached England. This is the worst thing about a motoring holiday to France. On returning, one is immediately struck by the inferiority of the roads and the driving. Not to mention the stark contrast between the brutalist design of British transport infrastructure and the slender elegance of an autoroute swooping through France. With French food still in course of digestion, one is reluctant to spoil pleasant gastronomic memories by eating at a British motorway service station - so one drives hungrily on. On French motorways, the convention is to return to the inside lane immediately after overtaking and even to give way to faster traffic which indicates left while in the outside lane to indicate a desire to pass. On British motorways, every jerk with an old hatchback is a envy-driven policeman - hogging the outside lane at the speed limit and refusing to make way. Given the stupid rules about no overtaking on the inside (a perfectly legal manoeuvre in many countries) even on motorways of which half the surface is clear, one cannot proceed at pace. The concrete surface of the heavily used motorways around London makes for horrific tyre roar and infuriatingly signals by its cost-conscious harshness that the state cares more about its own property than yours. One is reminded by the absurdly frequent congestion of the eagerness with which the stupid Green theory that congestion would not be eased by road-building was adopted by successive governments with "better" things on which to spend our money than the public infrastructure we actually need.
Nonetheless, it was a great trip. Mrs P. and I have not holidayed alone together since our children were born. It was a delight (and in truth, rather a relief) to discover that we still enjoy each other's company as much as when we first met almost 35 years ago. And how kind it was of the gods of blogging to ensure that the only news stories worthy of comment in the last two weeks related to a topic which my self-imposed rules as a blogger who is a guest in Russia would anyway have precluded my writing about.
Our favourite moment? Oddly enough, though we visited wonderful places, and ate in establishments sporting many Michelin macarons between them, it was at a time when things were going wrong. We telephoned Maserati Assistance to get the address of the nearest service centre. The service (predictably in England) has been outsourced. After much kerfuffle we were connected to the RAC in England. After a pause to look for the number, the operator cheerfully said "Hiya, sir! I've googled it and there doesn't seem to be a Maserati dealer in the South of France." We looked out at the performance machinery hurtling by around us and laughed out loud. That voice, supremely confident in its ignorance, might as well - at that moment - have been from another planet. God help England and vive la France!