Saturday, October 14, 2006

Political Generals

General Weygand had been for some days convinced that all further resistance was vain. He therefore wished to force the French Government to ask for an armistice while the French Army still retained enough discipline and strength to maintain internal order on the morrow of defeat. He had a profound lifelong dislike of the Parliamentary regime of the Third Republic. As an ardently religious Catholic, he saw in the ruin which had overwhelmed his country the chastisement of God for its abandonment of the Christian faith.He therefore used the power of his supreme military position far beyond the limits which his professional responsibilities, great as they were, justified or required. He confronted the Prime Minister with declarations that the French Army could fight no more, and that it was time to stop a horrible and useless massacre before general anarchy supervened ...

Weygand's position that because the army under his orders would in his opinion fight no more the French Republic must give in and order his armed forces to obey an order which he was certainly willing to carry out finds no foundation in the law and practice of civilised States or in the professional honour of a soldier. In theory at least the Prime Minister had his remedy. He could have replied: "You are affronting the constitution of the Republic. You are dismissed from this moment from your command. I will obtain the necessary sanction from the President."

Churchill, The Second World War, Volume II

New Link

Ross at Unenlightened Commentary.

An eye for a good link, like Monbiot's Greenham Common tale.

Some interesting snippets on guns too.

In 1919, the year before (UK) gun control legislation was introduced, the US homicide rate was almost twelve times that of the UK. After close to 80 years of rigorous gun control the gap has now narrowed to a factor of four.

Also Prague Tory. He's a Tory. Who lives in Prague. Prolific posts. Educated chap.

And a sad farewell I've been meaning to mention - David Terron at Cabarfeidh is ceasing to blog. One of my favourite reads, a sort of quasi-milblog (teaches history, ex-army, runs the Queen's Own Highlanders site). Will ye no come back again ?

Friday, October 13, 2006

"You see it every day, this surrender"

Great Johann Hari interview with Salman Rushdie in the Indie. I'll change the link when it goes onto Hari's site, or I might even post the whole thing.

Life's little ironies. Rushdie was the Zadie Smith of his day, Mr Metropolitan multicultural cool. Seems to have a few doubts now.

He became the poet laureate of mongrelisation, a writer who rejoiced that "everywhere was now part of everywhere else. Russia, America, London, Kashmir. Our lives, our stories, flowed into one another's, were no longer our own, individual, discrete." In 1985, he wrote - with soaring hope - that "the effect of mass migrations has been the creation of radically new types of human being: people who root themselves in ideas rather than places... people who have been obliged to define themselves - because they are so defined by others - by their otherness." But the gloriously disembodied, pan-national ideology that emerged from this swirl turned out to be his nemesis: Islamism ... the mass uprooting he celebrated helped to create the Islamist pining for a fictitious lost purity that is trying to kill him, a desperate quest to recreate the Mecca of Mohammed in the world's cold concrete jungles: "I have spent a lot of my life looking positively at the consequences of migration. Now I'm being forced to see that there's a nightmare as well as a dream."

"The world has become this mixed up place, the age of mass migration has taken place and we live in its aftermath - now what ?"

When it came to slagging off his adopted home, few could better him. And the chattering classes loved him for it.

At the time of the fatwa, Rushdie was widely known as a fierce and fearsome critic of US foreign policy, a man who condemned Israel's "monstrous" occupation of Palestinian lands, a man who damned Margaret Thatcher as " Mrs Torture" and warned that "British society has never been cleansed of the filth of imperialism".

Turns out the evil West wasn't so bad after all.

"When people ask me how the West should adapt to Muslim sensitivities, I always say - the question is the wrong way round. The West should go on being itself. There is nothing wrong with the things that for hundreds of years have been acceptable - satire, irreverence, ridicule, even quite rude commentary - why the hell not? "But you see it every day, this surrender"

Not so bad ? He loves it, in fact. He didn't really mean it. In fact he seems a bit worried that all those educated Brits seem to have taken him seriously.

He runs through a list of the theatres and galleries that have censored themselves in the face of religious fundamentalist protests. He mentions that the entire British media - from the BBC down - placed itself in purdah during the Mohammed cartoons episode. "What I fear most is that, when we look back in 25 years' time at this moment, what we will have seen is the surrender of the West, without a shot being fired. They'll say that in the name of tolerance and acceptance, we tied our own hands and slit our own throats. One of the things that have made me live my entire life in these countries is because I love the way people live here."

It was that same surrender, that disdain of the British elite for British culture, that made Rushdie a literary lion when 'Midnight's Children' was in the bestseller list. Just as with immigration, there's a nightmare as well as a dream.

More Dead Iraqis

I'm not a great fan of Daniel Davies, but his post on the Lancet '650,00 deaths' is well worth a read and raises points which need answering. People (like me) quote death counts from Sudan and the Congo estimated using pretty much the same methodology.

There was a sample of 12,801 individuals in 1,849 households, in 47 geographical locations. That is a big sample, not a small one.

In the 18 months before the invasion, the sample reported 82 deaths, two of them from violence. In the 39 months since the invasion, the sample households had seen 547 deaths, 300 of them from violence. The death rate expressed as deaths per 1,000 per year had gone up from 5.5 to 13.3.

There has been debate about whether the pre-invasion death rate measured by the study is lower than other figures - thus making the increase seem larger. I'm not sure how much that affects the headline figures. 547 deaths in 1,849 households in three and a bit years. That is saying that pretty much one household in three has had a death in the last three years. If those figures are correct it doesn't strike me that worrying about the exact pre-invasion toll cuts much ice.

This is the question to always keep at the front of your mind when arguments are being slung around (and it is the general question one should always be thinking of when people talk statistics). How Would One Get This Sample, If The Facts Were Not This Way? There is really only one answer - that the study was fraudulent.[1] It really could not have happened by chance. If a Mori poll puts the Labour party on 40% support, then we know that there is some inaccuracy in the poll, but we also know that there is basically zero chance that the true level of support is 2% or 96%, and for the Lancet survey to have delivered the results it did if the true body count is 60,000 would be about as improbable as this. Anyone who wants to dispute the important conclusion of the study has to be prepared to accuse the authors of fraud, and presumably to accept the legal consequences of doing so.

I'm sure there are a lot of people, including some at the Lancet, who want the figures to be large. Everyone against the Coalition presence wants the figures to be large, because the larger the figures the more likely the Coalition are to throw up their hands and leave. That's different from fiddlng them. I want them not to be large. But did the authors collect the data themselves ? I'm presuming not - I'm presuming Iraqis did that. What's difficult to ascertain is the quality of the data. Were the death certificates (90% svailable, apparently) photographed or scanned ? How were the households chosen ? I'd have thought some people would have moved or otherwise disappeared, given the fear of ethnic cleansing I read of. Who went out to ask the questions ? Given that security in Iraq seems pretty poor at present (i.e. you can't trust the police in many areas) how do you know the people asking were honest ? Are there statistical methods that could be used to compare data collected by different people, to spot potential exaggerations ?

Dunno mate. I gather the report is available as a pdf. Anyone read it ?

UPDATE - DFH looks at the car-bombs.

Of the 300 violent deaths, 30 (10%) were the result of car bombs in the year June 2005-June 2006. Using the survey's methodology, I believe that equates to 60,000 people killed by car bombs in one year. The most recent data available on the Iraq Body Count website lists 15 car bombs in the first half of September (ignoring bombs which targeted non-Iraqi forces); taking the highest figure for reported deaths, these bombs killed 75 people. That’s an average of 5 people killed per car bomb. On that basis, 60,000 deaths would require 12,000 car bombs in one year, or 33 per day. Either that or there are hundreds of massive car bombs killing hundreds of people which are going totally unreported.

Shuggy adds his groat's worth.

Horton (Lancet editor, anti-war-by-us - LT) in particular takes the view that the escalation of violence is largely a function of the presence of coalition troops in Iraq. Yet the situation described in the report is essentially one where violence is increasing because no one group in society has the capacity to monopolise its legitmate use. It is, in other words, a function of the fact that Iraq presently does not have, post-Saddam, a properly functioning state. Specifically the report records an increase in the casualty rate but a decline in the proportion that can be attributed to the actions of coalition troops.

It is clearly the absence of government that is the problem, which leads directly to the positions taken by those currently using these statistics as a basis to analyse recent history and prescribe future solutions. For one, since the accusation of denial - not always unjustified - has been spread abroad, it is worth considering whether there isn't another kind working here. Pre-2003 was preferable, is the argument, because while Saddam Hussein was violent in the extreme, because he enjoyed the monopoly over it, there was less of it.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Lancet - "Everyone Dead In Iraq"

As reported on the BBC - who were relaying '650,00 deaths' as fact on the World Service this morning. I know the World Service is funded by the Foreign Office, but I'd previously assumed it was our Foreign Office.

The survey suggests that most of the extra deaths - 601,000 - would have been the result of violence, mostly gunfire, and suggests that 31% could be attributable to action by US-led coalition forces.

'650,00 deaths' is greater than the German civilian losses after six years of Allied bombing in WW2, which heavily damaged most major German cities and included huge tolls in attacks like the Hamburg firestorm. I know a lot of people in Iraq are shooting each other, but are they really suggesting US forces have killed 200,000 ? And 400,000 deaths in what you could only call a civil war ?

These were the same people who gave us '100,000 deaths' last time out. Obviously not enough people took them seriously. What next - a million, two, five ?

The situation is not good though. Via Clive Davis, this Newsweek report is not at all encouraging. Fareed Zakaria suggests that the extra troops which most accept should have been there from the start may now be too late to make a difference. Responsibility for security has devolved down to the local level - local gangs and militias. A Lib-Dem paradise, in fact.

Iraq's problem is fundamentally political, not military. Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds need a deal that each can live with. Sen. Joseph Biden has outlined an intelligent power-sharing agreement, but what he, or for that matter George Bush, says doesn't matter. Power now rests with the locals. And the Shiites and the Sunnis have little trust in one another. At this point, neither believes that any deal would be honored once the United States left, which means that each is keeping its own militias as an insurance policy. If you were a Shiite, having suffered through a brutal insurgency and an incompetent government, would you give up your weapons ? If you were a Sunni, having watched government-allied death squads kill and ethnic-cleanse your people, would you accept a piece of paper that said that this government will now give you one third of Iraq's oil revenues if you disarm ?

I think the 600,000 might be more realistic if Uncle Sam pulled out. In some Muslim countries the solution might be a strict, Cromwellian, Islamic government (I told you I'm a Taleban fan) - but the Sunni/Shia divide makes the Somali/Afghan option a non-starter. The only thing I can see to do is to hang on in there - and send more troops. What Zakari calls 'limiting failure'.

The trouble is, reports like the Lancet's are designed to weaken commitment to Iraq. And the more signs the Sunnis and Shias see of weakening commitment, the more they'll be inclined to rely upon their own weapons. What happens here, in the West's media, matters. The BBC and Lancet are having their effect. And it's wholly malign.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

"A liberal who sometimes seems to shrink from the impact of his own findings"

You could say that. From the Financial Times :

When Robert Putnam published “Bowling Alone” six years ago, the book brought the Harvard professor such fame he was invited to speak at Camp David, 10 Downing Street - and Buckingham Palace ...

Now, after several years of further research, Putnam has come up with a more disturbing picture of contemporary American life: the more people of diverse ethnic backgrounds live in a community, the lower the level of trust among the community’s citizens.

This is, as he knows, an extremely contentious finding in a climate of growing concern about immigration in the US. It is potentially more controversial in Europe, which is struggling to cope with Islamic communities that can be actively hostile to Western democracy at their most extreme, and even in more moderate forms often prefer to live apart rather than integrate.

Putnam makes an important distinction between two different types of social capital: Bridging, in which an individual from one religious, ethnic, or class group, does something for someone in another group for an expected return, and bonding, when people who are “like us” – white Irish Catholic police officers, say, or black Alabama Baptist labourers – act in the expectation of a return.

The second kind, says Putnam, can “lead to Bosnia or Beirut” at most (I think he means 'at worst' - LT), and ever-wider social distance in wealthier societies.

It makes for close and warm relations among the “in” group but can freeze out or even make enemies of those considered “out”.

His diversity research reveals not just that bonding capital is strong and bridging capital weak in ethnically diverse communities, but also that both are weak in such societies: distrust permeates all relationships and people try to “minimise the hits on them from the society around them” by withdrawing into private space, often in front of a television.

That is a depressing picture ...

It certainly is. More here.

His research shows that the more diverse a community is, the less likely its inhabitants are to trust anyone – from their next-door neighbour to the mayor.

This is a contentious finding in the current climate of concern about the benefits of immigration. Professor Putnam told the Financial Times he had delayed publishing his research until he could develop proposals to compensate for the negative effects of diversity, saying it “would have been irresponsible to publish without that”.

The core message of the research was that, “in the presence of diversity, we hunker down”, he said. “We act like turtles. The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined. And it’s not just that we don’t trust people who are not like us. In diverse communities, we don’t trust people who do look like us.”

Prof Putnam found trust was lowest in Los Angeles, “the most diverse human habitation in human history”, but his findings also held for rural South Dakota, where “diversity means inviting Swedes to a Norwegians’ picnic”.

When the data were adjusted for class, income and other factors, they showed that the more people of different races lived in the same community, the greater the loss of trust. “They don’t trust the local mayor, they don’t trust the local paper, they don’t trust other people and they don’t trust institutions,” said Prof Putnam. “The only thing there’s more of is protest marches and TV watching.”

British Home Office research has pointed in the same direction and Prof Putnam, now working with social scientists at Manchester University, said other European countries would be likely to have similar trends.

Hmm. His observations certainly fit well with a society where our rulers alternate 'we need more diversity, it's a strength, valuable contribution etc etc' with 'what's happened to political engagement ? Why does no-one get involved any more ?'

Naught for our comfort in the Sunday Times either, looking at our own LA - London. Our most diverse city - and one where you can be stabbed to death on a bus while everyone looks in the opposite direction.

Many peaceable residents, however, are being pushed out of the area. Carly, 25, a white telephone receptionist, said that every day during her 15-minute walk to and from work she tries to “make myself invisible”.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Veiled Villains ?

The Guardian in 2004, on the religious hatred law :

Tony Wright, a clever Labour MP, said we had heard enough from the minister about who would not be prosecuted under the act. But who might be?

Mr Goggins - his boss, Charles Clarke looked simultaneously stony-faced and embarrassed at his side, which is quite a trick - said vaguely that you might get a poster "showing women wearing burkas, saying that such women are not to be trusted, er, could be suicide bombers, er, who knows what they are hiding under their coats, a poster of that kind ..."

The Times in 2006

A MALE suspect in a major anti-terrorist investigation in Britain escaped capture by allegedly disguising himself as a Muslim woman dressed in a burka, The Times can reveal.

The man, who was wanted in connection with serious terrorist offences, evaded arrest for several days as police searched for him across the country.

The fact that a fugitive remained at large after disguising himself in an Islamic dress which covered his face will further fuel the debate sparked by Jack Straw, Leader of the House of Commons, about the wearing of the veil.

Probably time to revisit this 2004 story :

Burka-clad gang in jewellery raid

An armed gang wearing burka headdresses escaped with jewellery after a raid on a shop in Halifax.

The three raiders - whose faces were covered by the religious gowns - entered the jewellers in Queen's Road, Pellon, at 1100 GMT on Monday, asked to view some gems and then produced a gun.

The shop owner was punched in the face and left blindfolded with his arms tied up.

At least two of the raiders, who fled in a car, are believed to be male.

Lancastrian "Bomber" Update

Burnley Citizen :

The 49-year-old has been arrested under the Explosives Act on suspicion of possessing chemicals that may be capable of making an explosion.

However Superintendent Neil Smith moved to reassure residents and stressed: "It is not a bomb making factory" and added that it was not related to terrorism.

Officers have been at the address since last Thursday and have been conducting door to door inquiries. Forensic officers have seized his car for examination.

Supt Smith added: "We are making inquiries in relation to what we have found at his address and to establish what offences he may have committed.

"He's not a terrorist and it's not a bomb factory but we are interested in what we have seized from his house. It will take expert advice to establish exactly what he has got.

"He was arrested under the Explosives Act on suspicion of possessing chemical substances that aren't in themselves an offence to possess but if combined may be capable of making an explosion."

The plot doesn't thicken - it thins. After all, you can make an explosion with a gallon of petrol (not recommended). And every farmer with a tankload of diesel and a bag of fertilizer is in possession of chemicals that may be capable etc.

"To establish what offences he may have committed", eh ?

(via Tottenham Lad in the comments)

Private Education

Is it a waste of money ? ask Shuggy and Chris Dillow.

I married into a family with a fair few doctors among the brothers-in-law and cousins. They were all state-educated - and all of them educate their children privately. Then I thought about other doctors I know. These are all NHS doctors - and I don't know a single one with children at state secondary. I'd say the majority used state primaries - but the moment the kids hit 11 they were sitting the entrance exams.

Maybe the NHS is recruiting only from stupid people. Or snobs.

UPDATE - "maybe they do it because they can afford it" says Shuggy in the comments - my reply's there too.

Chris Dillow wonders if the kids wouldn't prefer the cash, invested in a high interest account. I went through exactly this calculation before deciding to send my youngest son private. Reasoned that giving him the money equalled giving him a fish (or admittedly, rather a lot of fish). Giving him the education equalled teaching him to fish for himself.

It's sad - when I was a grammar-school boy we looked down on the 'publicans', characterising them as 'thick rich kids'. In those days the doctors sent their kids to the state grammars. But 'a grammar school education for all' turned out to be a lie.

John at the England Project bit the bullet too.

"And screw anyone who tells me that we, and 60% of other parents of children in my sons school, are doing it because we have fallen for a confidence trick. We are parents who saw an alternative to the future offered by the state and jumped at the chance…..even if it means financial worries and serious risk for a decade or so and a likely end to successful pension planning. It’s called being a parent. It’s called taking risks."

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Dumb Britain - It's Paediatrician Time

Some educated chap in Middlesborough sprays unpleasant anti-Muslim graffiti over the home of Indian Catholics.

Not since this case, etc etc.

Tsk Tsk

It looks as if bomb plots are all the rage this summer. Not sure why this isn't all over the BBC - it's the sort of stuff that that's usually meat and drink to them. Doubtless all will be revealed at a later date (via Pickled Politics).

TWO Pendle men have appeared before Pennine magistrates accused of having "a master plan" after what is believed to be a record haul of chemicals used in making home-made bombs was found in Colne.
Robert Cottage (49), of Talbot Street, Colne, and David Bolus Jackson (62), of Trent Road, Nelson, made separate appearances before the court charged with being in possession of an explosive substance for an unlawful purpose. The offences are under the Explosive Substances Act 1883.
Both men were remanded in custody to appear at Burnley Crown Court on October 23rd. Cottage was arrested at his home on Thursday, while retired dentist Jackson was arrested in the Lancaster area on Friday, the same day as he left a dental practice in Grange-over-Sands.
The 22 chemical components recovered by police are believed to be the largest haul ever found at a house in this country.
Cottage is an ex-BNP member who stood as a candidate in the Pendle Council elections in May.
Mrs Christiana Buchanan, who appeared for the prosecution in Jackson's case, alleged the pair had "some kind of masterplan".
She said a search of Jackson's home had uncovered rocket launchers, chemicals, BNP literature and a nuclear biological suit.
Police raided Cottage's Talbot Street home on Thursday of last week. The house was taped off while forensics officers searched the premises. Neighbours were told to stay in their homes for their own safety. Mr Cottage's car was also taken away for examination.
Officers also made a thorough examination of Jackson's Trent Road home and, again, officers were on duty outside the house. Forensics officers examined the property.

I'm note sure having 'a master plan' is actually a criminal offence. I think it might be the explosive substances that are the problem.

Rocket launchers ? And BNP literature ? Must be planning some sort of hi-tech leaflet delivery system.

No Fool Like An Old Fool ?

I wonder if this story :

"On Friday night, Sir Philip Green was not a happy man. Just a week earlier, he admitted that profits at his Bhs chain had slumped by more than half.

And on Thursday came an even greater blow: Jane Shepherdson, the woman credited with rescuing the Topshop brand, announced that she was leaving the company after more than 20 years. It was not a happy parting of the ways.

Two weeks earlier, Sir Philip had engineered one of the biggest business coups in his phenomenal career, enlisting Kate Moss to design clothing and accessories for the chain.

The tycoon and the supermodel celebrated the deal with a fat cigar and dinner for two at a Mayfair restaurant. But The Independent on Sunday has established that Ms Shepherdson, contrary to claims from the other camp, resigned because she felt sidelined in discussions over the £3m contract.

"Jane wasn't consulted about the Kate Moss deal. It was the last straw," a former colleague revealed.

Ms Shepherdson was widely credited with transforming Topshop from a downmarket chain to a brand favoured by A-list celebrities such as Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow and Scarlett Johansson."

Could possibly be related to this story ?

"KATE MOSS stunned guests at a celebrity auction last night by snogging the face off Hugh Grant's girlfriend Jemima Khan.

Millionaire Bhs boss Philip Green stumped up £60,000 for a "Kiss Me Kate" item in the celeb-studded event. But after puckering up for a peck on the cheek he offered the kiss to the person he outbid - Jemima."

Still, it's his money he's wasting. And he might not consider it a waste. As Mr Briffa so wisely observed, who would you rather knocked on your door in the small hours - Sir Ian Blair or Ms Moss ?

Michelle Malkin Video Banned By YouTube


Strange Parallel

It struck me this morning, listening to Phil Woolas on Radio Four (mp3 download, about 11 minutes in), that the language used by liberal commentators on the subject of Mohammed cartoons/Pope's remarks/whatever is exactly that of Straw and Woolas.

"Muslim women have every right to wear what clothing they believe their faith requires or that they feel confortable with - we're not questioning that ... I am saying that people need to consider the effect of their behaviour on others - and just as this government is very strong in standing up against discrimination and bigotry, we're asking people to consider the implications of their own behaviour ..."

This is pretty much par for the "of course there is a right to publish, but there are times when it is right not to exercise that right" course. The big difference is that those vearing the veil are unlikely to have to go into hiding. I imagine the SWP and MCB are even now organising a dignified 'Defend the Nijab' march, and I look forward to the sight of lefty women donning their veils in solidarity with their oppressed sisters. We may as well get some laughs out of the whole depressing situation.

The dynamics aren't totally clear to me. Why are Straw and Woolas saying this, and why now ? Is it, as some have suggested, a move for the Deputy Leadership, a concern to show that he's as tough as John Reid ? Or is he genuinely worried for social cohesion ? I suppose it's possible. The obvious thing to do if that's the worry - given the demographics of high fertility and chain migration - would be to stop all immigration from the Indian sub-continent now - no more trips for clever female undergraduates to Bangladesh or Mirpur, returning with a second cousin husband and elderly in-laws. But that would be racist. It ain't gonna happen.

So it looks as if we're going for an extremely mild kind of assimilation - thirty years too late.

"Excuse me, would you mind awfully taking off the veil when you're talking to me ?"

The dynamics of the response aren't difficult to foresee, although I hope I'm wrong (as one who predicts an unpleasant future for my children's generation, I have no desire to be proved correct). A marked increase in veil-wearing. Mr Straw will have made his request and got his response.

Couple of other points.

Remember when Jack Straw ducked out of the cartoon debate, which was entirely the product of a campaign of orchestrated outrage ?

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw: "The right of freedom of speech in all societies and all cultures has to be exercised responsibly and does not extend to an obligation to insult."

Phil Woolas today : "... the impact of the debate in the united kingdom goes directly across the world - particularly to the Asian subcontinent, where relatives watch the same news often, read reports of the UK debate - these things can be misinterpreted, can be twisted, can be used by any point of view to inflame or perpetuate a particular angle - now, some of the reports in the Asian subcontinent have questioned whether or not it is safe to be a Muslim in Britain ... my point ... is that this debate is reported elsewhere and is often misunderstood"

Perhaps you should have defended the Danes against lies and misinformation when they were the victims. Those who do not hang together will assuredly hang seperately.

"The issue of how do we have faith-based communities within a democratic secular country,is a question that is facing the world"

I didn't know we WERE a secular democracy. I thought the Queen ruled under God and that our constitution was specifically Protestant and Christian. Did they slip and Enabling Act through in the recess ? Admittedly our constitution is about the only Christian thing left. Which is why we're in this mess.

This bit was also interesting - the opening part especially (I couldn't actually grasp his waffling at the end) :

"Young Muslim people especially want to assert their identity, want to assert their faith - and that's very understandable in the modern world - equally that can cause an increase in stereotyping and discrimination against them, contrary to their own intentions - so while the government is strong in standing up against discrimination - and indeed we've legislated very strongly for that ; we also wish to create a very tolerant society where there's a greater understanding of why it is that people do what they want; I'm trying to get this out in the open so that we can debate this in a very mature way"

Would Mr Woolas find a desire in English people to assert their identity "very understandable" ? The problem with asserting identity is that it tends to be asserted against some other identity. If thet other identity is the straight white male, or the English. no problem - hence Gape Ride marches or Easter 1916 commemorations. Yet I haven't noticed an especial keenness on the part of our rulers to understand, say, the desire of British Ulstermen to "assert their identity" at Drumcree and other places.

Anna Politkovskaya 1958 2006

A brave woman, in a country where serious dissent is a lot more dangerous than it is over here. I wonder how long a Pilger or Fisk would last reporting from Georgia ?

That's not to say I'm an uncritical supporter of her work. Don't know enough about it for a start, but I know in a war like the Chechen one there'll be plenty of dirtiness and atrocity on all sides. If you scour the web you can find tasteful Islamist videos of Russian soldiers being decapitated.

At the moment we hear from Afghanistan of "hundreds of Taliban killed" and the like. I'm sure that on such occasions bad things will happen, civilians will die - how can it be otherwise when any Pashtun community is a community of fighters ? but there are few to report. Our troops may be hampered by lack of numbers, equipment, helicopters, hospital beds, houses in Dachet - but they're fighting without looking over their shoulders for tomorrow's Guardian. It's too dangerous a place for Western journalists to report from.

UPDATE - two German journalists killed in the 'safer' North.