Author Archives: Phil E

The rising prison population isn’t only a British concern; it also makes the news in Italy. However, the comparison with Britain breaks down on at least two counts: firstly, because the size of the prison population is considerably smaller (in both absolute and relative terms); secondly, because the Italian government has taken the novel step of doing something about it. It’s good news for a lot of convicts, or ex-cons as they are now – including some of the crooks who were running Italian politics not that long ago.
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After this year’s party conference season, David Cameron must think he’s got the next election in the bag. Blair’s emotional farewell was very nice if you like that sort of thing (Goodnight, and I love you all!), but it inevitably left both of the frontrunners to succeed him looking even more dour and forbidding than they do normally. Both Brown and John Reid are looking old these days – their only consolation is that Ming Campbell looks even older. And enter Cameron, who’s 39 and looks 19, promising to let sunshine win the day. Who could resist? Read More

You can define a thing in many ways, especially when it’s an abstract concept (“terrorism”, “democracy”, “British values”…). You can define to persuade, by emphasising features you believe people will find desirable (or, in some cases, undesirable). Alternatively, you can define to exclude, emphasising features some people will find it impossible to sign up to. You can even define to provoke, emphasising features some people will positively object to; this is particularly effective when other listeners aren’t in on the disagreement in question, and are thus faced with the unattractive sight of a minority making a fuss about nothing.

A more radical approach, and one which New Labour is particularly fond of, is the un-definition or anti-definition. Read More

It looks like the dust has finally settled after the elections. People are jockeying for position, accusations of disloyalty are flying around, but nobody’s disputing what the numbers say. The Prime Minister is still there, for now. He’s been announcing to anyone who will listen that he tells his allies what to do and not the other way round – so no change there. But at least he’s resigned. Read More

Below the fold you’ll see the full text of a series of telegrams sent by Craig Murray, the then British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, to the Foreign Office. Briefly, the situation Murray describes is as follows. Karimov’s Uzbekistan, a vile authoritarian regime, routinely uses torture on its own people. Torture during interrogations rarely produces usable information and very often produces bad information: people being tortured will, eventually, say anything to make it stop. Read More

Welcome to another random walk in the blogforest. The rules are simple: start with an interesting blog that you don’t know, and write about it. Then, find another interesting blog on the first blog’s blogroll, and write about that – and so on. (But stop when you hit number six, no one’s got all day.)

This week I bring you a particularly beautiful bunch of blogs, featuring politics, photography, oil paintings, Japan, a lot of maps and more links than you could follow in a week. I took my lead from Shelley Powers’ Burningbird (an excellent blog in itself). Shelley introduced me to an extraordinary blog, which I hereby name as my #1 for this week: Mark Woods’ wood s lot.

Now five years old, wood s lot Read More

Paradigm, n.: a cognitive model for explaining a set of data; a set of tacit assumptions and beliefs; a general agreement of belief about how the world works.

“The fact these are British-born Muslims changes the paradigm of terror. The crucial issue now is, can we engage with the community so they move from being close to denial about this into a situation in which they really engage with us?” – Ian Blair, 15th July 2005

“I do not think there can be any question that this changes the paradigm, the context of community safety.” – Ian Blair, 6th September 2005

“Since 7/7 it’s a new paradigm – it’s a new world.” – Ian Blair, Any Questions?, 23rd September 2005

When someone like Ian Blair starts talking in polysyllables, two questions suggest themselves. Firstly, what is he talking about?; secondly, how scared should I be? Read More

First things first: what happened in London last Thursday was horrific, unjustifiable and unforgivable. Faced with an outrage like the bus and tube bombings, it’s entirely appropriate to express respect to the victims, defiance of the murderers who carried it out and solidarity with the people of London.

What happened on Thursday was terror: “personal violence against non-specific targets, with the immediate goal of causing panic and alarm”. That word ‘non-specific’ is important here. Murder fuelled by personal hatred is a sad, grim thing, but it’s always on a human scale; Read More

Carrots, that is. In fact, they’re not a fruit at all, and (whatever Tim Worstall says) the EU never suggested they were.

What carrots are is orange. They’re orange for entirely political reasons: in the sixteenth century, Dutch growers cultivated orange carrots as a tribute to William of Orange, and the colour stuck. A thousand years of yellow, white and purple carrot history, wiped out in a generation.

It could all have been so different. Read More

(Or “the glorious day”, for any lurking Citizen Smith nostalgics.)

Paul Anderson raves about John Palmer’s presentation of “the left case for a yes vote in the French and Dutch referendums”. I’m not so sure.

Very briefly: the new elements of the constitutional treaty can be grouped under the headings of economic liberalisation, democratisation and institutional consolidation. Read More