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Sleepless in Fulham: Rambling and gambling by David Young
Wednesday, 13 September 2006
The politics of animals and children.
Topic: Politics



I’ve been scooped. I was going to comment on the spate of attacks on Stingrays in Australia, pointing out that while the message will be lost on the Stingrays themselves, I like the way that Aussies have demonstrated retaliatory capacity. But Harry Hutton at Chasemeladies, has done it far better than I could, and thrown in a gratuitous reference to Mark Steyn too!


Harry’s been on fine form lately. If you’re looking for some Miros-type humour to make up for the fact that Lord Miros hasn’t updated for months, then check him out. Please note that despite making frequent references to High Wycombe, we are not the same person. He’s far more critical of the place than I am. Any town whose municipal waste tip is named ‘High Heaven’ can’t be all bad.




I’m often amused at the way that children are held to be innocent of matters of politics. Of course they don’t have to discuss how budgets are allocated or fight over tax revenues, but they engage in plenty of machinations about the one thing they do need and have to offer – friendship. So I’m grateful to six-year old Amy at  for reminding us of this, by relating the fluctuating fortunes of her various friendships at Fircroft School.


Back when she started blogging in April, her best friend was Alfie.


despite the awkward age difference


Amy, Alfie and another boy named Matthew used to have fun turning into things:


But over the summer things seem to have gone wrong. Her mother has reported rude notes with unpleasant anti-Amy messages being stuck on their front door  


and finally Amy has had to make the break. She is no longer friends with Alfie and Matthew.


I’m pleased that she’d found new friends and I wish her well in the difficult world of playground politics. If only the alliances of children were as simple and straightforward as those of the major world superpowers.

_ DY at 6:30 PM BST
Updated: Thursday, 14 September 2006 3:52 PM BST
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Thursday, 7 September 2006
Topic: Politics

I weigh in at Stephen Bartley's blog: 

Sunday, 3 September 2006
What is the sex ratio in Iraq?
Topic: Politics

I read a long time ago that Iraq was 62 per cent female. I wish I'd bookmarked where I read it, because when I tried to track down the statistic, I could only source it to this:

which states: 

"Women are 62 percent of the population and represent tremendous intellectual and human resource pool."

Has anyone got a better source? If true, then it's a shocking revelation of the horrors of the Saddam era. Even if the coalition forces have killed the number claimed in the Lancet report of 2004 (100,000), that does not in any way explain a 62 to 38 female - male ratio in a country of over 20 million people. When Mark Steyn drove around Iraq in 2003, he said that he encountered many families that were almost entirely female, so many men having been killed in the wars against Iran and Kuwait, as well as the hundreds of thousands killed in the Al Anfal campaign and the suppression of the uprising against Saddam in 1991.

I've even read it claimed that one reason why the Americans underestimated the level of post-war violence was that they believed that the high level of women relative to men in Iraq would have a pacifying effect.

I know that I have at least one Iraqi reader. Would any care to comment on the gender split, please?

Tuesday, 29 August 2006
What if they didn't report?
Topic: Politics

I'm not one for censorship, but there are times when it's obvious that the media can change events merely by being around to report them. This week, two kidnapped Fox News journalists were freed by the Islamic militant group that had captured them in Gaza. One of them said on his release:

"I just hope this never scares a single journalist away from coming to Gaza to cover this story because the Palestinian people are very beautiful, kind-hearted, loving people who the world need to know more about and so do not be discouraged. Come and tell the story. It's a wonderful story."

But that got me to thinking - what if journalists did refuse to go to Gaza? I think it would be a positive thing. If Palestinians really are the "very beautiful, kind-hearted, loving people who the world need to know more about" then is it too much to ask that they don't kidnap the journalists who are going to tell their version of events? I think a media boycott would benefit Gazans and journalists worldwide. Perhaps if there had been a temporary media boycott a few years ago, these two wouldn't have been kidnapped in the first place.

On a connected theme, I was struck by a comment in the middle of this report about a trip to southern Israel, near the border with Gaza: 

Key Quote:

“Lots of Qassams hit this city,” Shika said. “Most people killed by the Qassams live here.”

“How many rockets are hitting the city right now?” I said.

“Not as many today,” he said. “Because of the war in Lebanon.”

“What does Lebanon have to do with it?” I said.

“All the journalists forgot about us during the Lebanon war. So the terrorists are waiting for the media to come back before firing rockets again. They don’t want to waste those they have.”

“That can’t be the only reason,” I said. “The IDF has been active in Gaza this entire time. Surely that has something to do with it.”

“Yes,” he said. “Also because of the IDF.

Later two more Israelis repeated what Shika said about Hamas and Islamic Jihad cooling their rocket launchers while the media’s attention was elsewhere. I haven’t heard any official confirmation from either side that it’s true.

(Emphasis mine)

I realise this is merely anecdotal, but it makes a lot of sense. Terrorists see the western media as a front in their strategy.

_ DY at 1:14 PM BST
Updated: Tuesday, 29 August 2006 1:30 PM BST
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Monday, 21 August 2006
Terror threatens Germany.
Topic: Politics

What are Germans to make of the news that two young men, at least one of whom had middle-eastern connections, attempted to explode bombs on trains packed with commuters? In contrast to Britain, where terrorist apologists can be relied upon to quickly rustle up a few excuses about various provocations, it's not obvious what Germans could do differently. They have no troops in Iraq, no troops in Afghanistan, no involvement in Algeria, no involvement in Chechnya, no ban on headscarves and didn't publish cartoons about Mohammed!  

Despite trying hard to be good infidels, they are still targets.

_ DY at 12:43 AM BST
Updated: Monday, 21 August 2006 2:01 PM BST
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Friday, 4 August 2006
Interesting reminder from Christopher Hitchens.
Topic: Politics

Here's an interesting article from Christopher Hitchens reminding readers of something that has been forgotten in the current conflagration in the Middle East - that Palestinians were likely to be given a referendum on the issue of recognition of Israel.

I'm normally a bit sceptical of people who say 'the timing is suspicious'. I recall lots of people telling me that the timing was suspicious when the coalition announced the capture of Saddam Hussein. Many were of the view that he'd been captured beforehand and the news only released when ... ... well that's the point. I can't remember why December 2003 was so important and I doubt any of the people who said it was suspcious at the time can remember now either.

But Hitchens asks the question:

Does it not seem obvious that the intention of the various provocations launched from Gaza, from the missiles to the first abduction of an Israeli soldier, were designed precisely to make this referendum impossible? And does it not seem at least very likely that the Hezbollah operations on Israel’s northern border have been implicitly coordinated to assist Hamas in this respect?

And I think it's certainly a possibility. But I've also heard people claim that Iran wanted to distract the UN from its nuclear programme. Of the two explanations, I find the Hitchens' rationale more convincing, but both could be false. Whatever the case, a referendum would have been very interesting. It would be interesting to know whether Palestinians accepted Hamas for its social programmes, but rejected its warlike intentions. Alas we won't know any time soon.


_ DY at 6:52 PM BST
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Friday, 28 July 2006
The no-state solution.
Topic: Politics

Excellent piece by Mark Steyn on the involvement of Iran in the Middle East: 

The money quote:

Saudi-Egyptian-Jordanian opportunism on Palestine has caught up with them: it's finally dawned on them that a strategy of consciously avoiding resolution of the "Palestinian question" has helped deliver Gaza, and Lebanon, and Syria, into the hands of a regime that's a far bigger threat to the Arab world than the Zionist Entity. Cairo and co grew so accustomed to whining about the Palestinian pseudocrisis decade in decade out that it never occurred to them that they might face a real crisis one day: a Middle East dominated by an apocalyptic Iran and its local enforcers, in which Arab self-rule turns out to have been a mere interlude between the Ottoman sultans and the eternal eclipse of a Persian nuclear umbrella. The Zionists got out of Gaza and it's now Talibanistan redux.The Zionists got out of Lebanon and the most powerful force in the country (with an ever growing demographic advantage) are Iran's Shia enforcers. There haven't been any Zionists anywhere near Damascus in 60 years and Syria is in effect Iran's first Sunni Arab prison bitch.

_ DY at 3:22 PM BST
Updated: Friday, 28 July 2006 4:35 PM BST
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Saturday, 22 July 2006
My correspondent in Beirut.
Topic: Politics

Several of you have written in this week asking me to comment on the Israel/Lebanon situation. Sorry I've not said much lately, but it's very hot in my flat and I've not felt motivated to sit down and compose fresh thoughts. I'm not going to start from scratch today either, as there is no need.  I have a close friend (and former flatmate) who's half-Lebanese, half-British. He's in Beirut now and naturally I'm concerned for him. His chances of being bombed are relatively light, as he lives in the Christian areas. But his family business is sure to be harmed by the conflict and he's got a muslim girlfriend (don't ask).

He does not share all my views about the Middle East. He despises American Zionists jews for instance, believing that they have a nostalgic impression of Israel that doesn't reflect demographic changes in the last few decades and his view on Neo-Cons is 'I prey for their deaths'. Earlier this week, I asked him whether he would use his UK passport to get evacuated. He told me that he would stay put. Despite not sharing my views, he didn't launch into a diatribe against Israel.

Here are some things he did say. I won't add much to them, except to note that he's not as critical of Israel as all of the people who've written in and it's HIS country getting bombed not theirs! In fact, he barely expresses any criticism of Israel at all.

"Lebanese politicians universally rally around hizbollah in short term. Longer term it could lead to a escalation of issues relating to the role of hizbollah as an armed militias group, this could be a positive as the status quo preserves their existence as an armed force. Local politicians don't have the political will or power to stand against syria in insisting on hizbollah's disarmament. If you do, they tend to kill you.
Hizbollah is a combination of a font of political expression of the disaffected impoverished shia population in the south, and a tool of iran/syria foreign policy. Israel provokes syria with a presidentioal palace flyby. Syria reacts by encouraging hizbollah. Israel bombs lebanese infrastructure. Hizbollah gets what it wants-an escalation of violence and a pseudo justification for their existence as armed force. Syria & Iran gets what they want-political capital in threatening israel without suffering the consequences. Israel gets to make a show of force.
Lebanon gets fucked. The truth is, no one really gives a shit because as long as Lebanon is weak, than the chances of enforcing the nationalisation of the Palestinian refugees within Lebanon is greater. And everyone, bar the Lebanese, wants this.
I made the following point at the time the syrians were evicted from Lebanon....
The only military force capable of disarming hizbollah is the syrians, and i preferred that that the US & International community found a way to make them do this by making concessions on other issues first, before asking them to leave Lebanon. If the US had done this, than they could always turn the heat up on the syrians afterwards on other issues. Asking the syrians to leave without forethought as to how to ensure hizbollah's disarmament was not good forward thinking by the US. This kind of conflict is inevitable if you allow armed militias to roam around the country."
In a later e-mail:
"This isn't a very nice thing to say, but I do hope the shia that are leaving the country get settled where they go. I'm not leaving this country for Hizballah."
In another later e-mail:
I was a lone voice of dissent when the Syrians were asked to leave the country, because, as ever, the US will never commit itself to long term solutions to the region. Their policy is always to react to events with a hopeless short term Israeli bias.
My point then, as now, is that
1 The Leb Army can't and won't disarm Hizballah. They are not strong enough militarily and 75% of army is Shia.
2 Hizballah will never voluntarily disarm.
3 Once Syria leaves they would inevitably encourage Hizballah since they could claim innocence and Israel couldn't retaliate against their positions in Lebanon.
4 The only ground force capable of disarming Hizballah is Syria.
What was needed, was concerted International pressure on Syria to disarm Hizballah. The Syrians usually do what the US tells them. Afterwards, they could step up the pressure and get the Syrians to leave altogether. Given the right carrots, they may well have done this. However, facts are facts and The Lebanese Gov was never going to be in a position to implement 1559 and disarm Hizballah. It was ridiculous to expect this after the Syrians withdrew.
The game now, is that Israel is determined to destroy hizballah's military capability, especially since it is more potent than they first imagined. This could result in Leb Army deployment in the south, as the Israelis are asking. I believe Bush/Blair want this. Hizballah won't back down because they don't care what happens to the rest of Lebanon, they just want war. Whatever happens we need decisive action, preserving the pre-war status quo is unacceptable.

_ DY at 1:42 PM BST
Updated: Saturday, 22 July 2006 1:48 PM BST
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Tuesday, 11 July 2006
Who armed Saddam?
Topic: Politics
I went to a comedy gig on Friday last week with Jo Haslam, Steve Bartley, Steve Bennett, Dom Sutton and Peter Birks. I had no idea you could pay a mere tenner to see decent acts (Jeff Green and Rich Hall) test run their Edinburgh material. It's weird paying money to be a guinea pig but it was entertaining and that's all that counts. The club was packed - a clear sign that the comedy market is a healthy one. And coming in the same week that Jim Davidson declared banktuptcy, it's matured too.

Pete wrote about the gig the next day on his site and in the course of his 'review' mentioned something I'd said about the political tone of most comedy being slanted to the left. Using an example of something that Rich Hall had said I wrote back:

I did enjoy Hall's act very much. His delivery is excellent. But when for instance he says things like 'The rest of the world is looking at America in Iraq and thinking "what the fuck are you doing?", is it too much to hope for that he could mention that one reason for this is that much of the outside world was selling Saddam weapons and that they were furious at America for deposing a major creditor? Of course it is. No comedian ever approaches it from that angle. But it would make a refreshing change for me.

Someone named 'geoffchall' replied the rest of the world is 'looking at America in Iraq and thinking "what the fuck are you doing?"'and one of the reasons is that America spent so many years selling weapons to Saddam only to then have them fired back at themselves.'

It reminded me of something I'd forgotten. That many people think that the US was a major arms supplier to Iraq. It's not true. Scott Burgess of the Daily Ablution shows the real figures:

Who Armed Saddam?

For a breakdown of what the US did sell him, see the list at the bottom of this page:

_ DY at 9:16 PM BST
Updated: Tuesday, 11 July 2006 9:33 PM BST
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Monday, 10 July 2006
Topic: Politics
Over at Iraq the Model, there's an interesting piece about the different attitudes towards Islamic extremism, the Palestinians, Hamas and Israel held by Iraqis and non-Iraqi Arabs:

Singing out of the flock.

It's based on comments made on the BBC arabic forum. The difference between the attitudes of Iraqis and non-Iraqis is striking. Omar, one of the brothers who runs the site, says:

What was written in that thread stands as one example of the change in the Iraqi way of thinking since the day we got rid of the dictator and shows that logic and facts are gaining more ground at the expense of emotions and conspiracy theories.

Many of the Iraqi contributors to the thread are openly sympathetic to Israel and critical of the Palestinans, while the non-Iraqi readers are horrifed by this. It's genuinely fascinating reading.


As promised in comments today, I've located an article that Robert Fisk wrote in the Independent on June 6th. In an interview with the cousin of a Palestinian who blew himself up in Iraq on a 'martyrdom operation', Fisk says

"As for Saddam's oppression of Iraq's Shia Muslims, Maher Oweydah has little sympathy. 'The truth is that Saddam was a Sunni and his struggle was with the Shia. Then after the invasion of Iraq, the Shia clerics and intellectuals and politicians entered the country on the American tanks'.

Fisk continues: "Extended members of the Oweydah family - those who are waiting for further 'calls' to Iraq - nodded at this narrative".

Later on Fisk tells us that the mother of the dead boy says to him 'I will meet him in heaven - in the higher heaven. I am happy he will be married in the spring of heaven'.

Now I ask skeptics like Roger Kirkham, who don't think that the postings on the BBC arabic forum are genuinely from Iraqis, whether they still think it unimaginable that by now there are Iraqis who are hostile to Palestinians. Well?

Full article here

_ DY at 3:42 AM BST
Updated: Tuesday, 11 July 2006 12:58 AM BST
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Friday, 7 July 2006
"So basically I met one nice French person."
Topic: Politics

Interesting story from France:

From the article: 

"A new body will try to boost financial literacy and communicate the benefits of wealth creation more effectively. ..

[Ministers] are worried about what they see as an over-reliance on the state and a lack of entrepreneurial dynamism.

The Council for the Diffusion of Economic Culture will operate under the auspices of the finance ministry when it launches later this year."

So the French are to get a government body to explain to them how to understand free market economics and thus reduce their reliance on ... government bodies! I love it.

Separately, Tripod, the blogging service I use, has made some upgrades to its software. I think it's having some teething problems though. Comments don't seem to appear until I write new posts. I'll have to dig around and see whether my settings have been altered or just hope that things clear up.

Sunday, 2 July 2006
We have to change the way we think about property and education.
Topic: Politics

Here's an irony - I've been buying the Daily Express this week! No, I haven't changed my mind about Diana conspiracy theories. I still think it's a rubbish paper, but when I found out it was giving away copies of the Michel Thomas teach yourself Spanish course over eight days, I couldn't resist. I love collecting that stuff.

Most days I've barely glanced at the paper itself. Today's copy is still unread. But on Friday I read the cover story about property prices and was stunned to read this piece of logic from Peter Bolton King of the National Association of Estate Agents, following the release of figures from the Bank of England showing that the UK's total mortgage debt has topped £1 trillion and that prices were still rising:

"Many owners are relying on property as a source of income for the future, whether it be as a general investment or a nest egg for retirement, so with property forming the foundation of many people's future financial security this latest news is very heartening. Also it's worth pointing out that a positive housing market relates directly to the high street economy so it's essential the current improved picture continues, and that means continued low interest rates."

If this is typical of how middle England actually thinks then this country is in deep trouble. High house prices are good for only one thing - encouraging the development of new housing. And thanks to the anti-development bias in the planning permission system, they don't even achieve that. To see why Bolton King's argument is so ridiculous, try reading it out loud, but substituting 'Microsoft shares' instead of 'property' and 'monopoly of the market for operating systems' instead of 'low interest rates'.

We have to change the way we think about property in this country if we are to be as economically dynamic as the US. From the same newspaper, here's Fionnuala Earley, group economist of Nationwide:

"Someone on average earnings would now need to spend 42 per cent of their take-home pay on mortgage repayments, compared with just 32 per cent three years ago".

It's hard to see how a society can flourish when people are spending two pounds out of every five they earn on the roof above their heads. Something has to give and that something is Britain's future. The UK's low fertility and birth rate isn't solely a function of high property prices, but it's one of the first places I'd look if I wanted to solve the problem. This article from the Telegraph states the facts:

Price boom, baby bust.

"In the late 1980s, the average age of a first-time buyer was 23: it is now 33. People are now living with parents for longer, or are sharing rented accommodation. Often they must pay off student debt before they can even start to save for a deposit on a house."

How to destroy a society in two easy moves - saddle the brightest and most talented with debt during their period of greatest fertility and then move them to cities where house prices are so high that they can't afford a home large enough to have a family. With any luck they'll die childless and never pass on their genes or life experience to anyone else.

What else could be done to cripple your society? Come on, you can't expect the housing market and student loans to do everything! What about sending your cleverest children to single-sex schools, so that they delay encountering the opposite sex until much later in life? That's bound to cut the number of children with high IQs in the next generation. No doubt you've been told the line that it's all worth it, because single-sex schools achieve better results for girls. Well it turns about that this is bogus.

Single-sex schools 'no benefit for girls'

'The reason people think single-sex schools are better is because they do well in league tables,' said Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research. 'But they are generally independent, grammar or former grammar schools and they do well because of the ability and social background of the pupils.' Their success should not be used to argue it is better to separate girls and boys in other settings, he added.

So for decades now, the bright ambitious middle class people have delayed the emotional development and sexual experience of their offspring ... and it's all been for nothing.

All of these things anger me. The Middle Classes matter and it should concern us when they are unwilling or unable to raise the next generation. I'm not just saying this because I'm generally considered 'middle class' myself. I sincerely believe that societies with extremes of rich and poor with little in between are dysfunctional. Of course the key challenge is to facilitate the upward mobility of the people at the bottom, but bolstering the numbers in the middle helps too.

The Telegraph spells out the problem:

The middle classes are letting us down: they must breed more.

Fat chance of that happening when we put every possible obstacle in their path.

_ DY at 3:02 AM BST
Updated: Sunday, 2 July 2006 3:03 AM BST
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Friday, 30 June 2006
Essential Reading - Islam can vote, if we let it.
Topic: Politics
Here's another piece for the essential reading section. It's shorter than the others.

Islam Can Vote, if We Let It

_ DY at 7:28 PM BST
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Friday, 16 June 2006
It's the demography, stupid!
Topic: Politics
Another piece to add to my essential reading collection.

Much of what we loosely call the Western world will not survive this century, and much of it will effectively disappear within our lifetimes, including many if not most Western European countries.

Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, 6 June 2006
Palestinian child indoctrination.
Topic: Politics
I had a curious moment several months ago while walking past my local Chinese take-away in Fulham. For no reason I can think of, it suddenly dawned on me that I hadn't thought about the Palestine/Israel conflict for a few weeks. It felt great!

Alas I know it's something that a lot of readers want me to express views on and I will write some thoughts tomorrow. But for now, please check out this video of a Palestinian programme for children. It's heartbreaking. Two girls of 11 years of age talk openly of their desire for a martyr's death.

This is just sad, incredibly sad.

What could be better than going to paradise?

Click on the sideways triangle to activate the clip. A translation is provided. For those who can't access it, I provide the transcript:

Host: You described 'Shahada' as something beautiful. Do you think it is beautiful?

Walla (aged 11): Shahada is a very very beautiful thing. Everyone years for Shahada. What could be better than going to paradise?

Host: What is better, peace and full rights for the Palestinian people or Shahada?

Walla: Shahada. I will achieve my rights after becoming a Shahid. We won't stay children forever.

Host: OK Yussra, would you agree with that?

Yussra (aged 11): Of course Shahada is a good (sweet) thing. We don't want this world, we want the Afterlife. We benefit not from this life, but from the Afterlife. All young Palestinians, not like other youths, are hot tempered. They choose Shahada, since they are Palestinian.

Host: Do you actually love death?

Yussra: Death is not Shahada.

Host: No, I mean that absence after death, the physical absence, do you love death?

Yussra: No child loves death. The children of Palestine adopted the concept that this is Shahada. They believe that Shahada is very good. Every Palestinian child, say someone aged 12, says O Lord, I would like to become a Shahid.

_ DY at 3:37 PM BST
Updated: Tuesday, 6 June 2006 3:44 PM BST
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